Case Study 3.2: HathiTrust
Founded in 2008, the HathiTrust Digital Library emerged out of a partnership between research and academic institutions. With support from Google and the Internet Archive, the library boasts millions of digitized volumes—some available only to members and some, as openly accessible materials.
HathiTrust privileged accessibility in its founding mission. As stated in the organization’s 2012 bylaws: “HathiTrust is organized…to dramatically improve access to these materials in ways that, first and foremost, meet the needs of the co-owning institutions, with a particular emphasis on ensuring access for individuals who have print disabilities.”
In keeping with this aim, HathiTrust redesigned its interface in 2012, in part to improve web accessibility. These improvements included:
- Multiple file formats: Allowing users to access text-only versions of books. This allowance makes it possible for users to change color contrast, increase text size, and use text-to-speech and braille displays.
- Transparency: Each page links to an accessibility statement that includes contact information, a description of HathiTrust’s OCRing process, known accessibility issues, and information about the library’s “accessible text request service.”
- Accessible platform: Readers can navigate books using keyboard-only commands and skip links.
- Collaboration with organizations representing print disabilities: HathiTrust prioritizes outreach to organizations representing people with disabilities. Notably, when the library was sued by the Authors Guild, organizations such as the National Federation of the Blind intervened to lend support. Statements by disabled researchers like Georgina Kleege underlined the need for expanding access to books and research for people with disabilities.
HathiTrust’s mission-driven commitment to accessibility is further outlined in “HathiTrust and a Mission for Accessibility,” by Angelina Zaytsev.