The Problems with “Free Riders”

2) HathiTrust’s core values are stated as “community, scale, access/preservation, and openness”. From the articles and from your exploration of the site, what activities or information have you found that support these values?

There has been so many insightful observations this week that offer evidence of  how HathiTrust’s values of  “access/preservation” and “scale” are supported by their core values.  I thought I’d focus on a phrase that caught my interest within the York article.  When discussing the six focused goals agreed upon by the original partners, York describes efforts to market  incentives to join as full members by offering enhanced value stating:

To create and sustain this “public good” in a way that ensures the greatest availability of materials to the public, but offers additional value to members, mitigating the problem of “free riders”.

It has already been pointed out that HathiTrust does a commendable job of making their governance open and equitable to member institutions.  This is surely an attractive incentive to stay involved.  But what of “mitigating the problem of free riders”?   How is this combated?  What does HathiTrust endeavor to do to draw members into joining and being engaged, and not remain passive partners?  York addresses these issues later in the article when he concludes:

What prevents an institution that is not a member from piggybacking on the efforts of others and gaining the same ends? … The difference between members and nonmembers lies in the benefits of active participation, which come in forms of legal participation, and allocation of in-kind resources.

These in-kind resources are described as both the ability to involve themselves with governance, but also to review and make decisions related to compliance with copyright, identifying orphan works, creating databases of other partners print holdings, having a say in the development of the bibliographic management system, and the support of the HathiTrust Research Center described in the short video we considered.

Freeloading on a project achievements, without contributing to their success and future challenges, does seem like a real issue.  It was interesting to see what HathiTrust built into their plans as incentives to entice stakeholders to pay their fair share.  And not be just “free riders”.


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