January 26, 2022

Cornell, Duke, Emory, and Johns Hopkins Join HathiTrust Orphan Works Project

From the Announcement:

Leaders at Cornell, Duke, Emory and Johns Hopkins universities jointly announced today that they would begin making the full text of thousands of “orphan works” in their library collections digitally accessible to students, faculty and researchers at their own institutions.


With the announcement, the four institutions formally join the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Florida in a collaborative Orphan Works Project, which aims to identify orphan works that have been scanned and archived in the HathiTrust Digital Library. HathiTrust is a partnership of more than 50 major research institutions working to share, archive and preserve their combined collections of digitized books and journals.

Currently, more than 9 million digitized volumes are held by the HathiTrust. No one knows exactly how many of those are orphans, but HathiTrust executive director John Wilkin has estimated that it could be as many as half. Of those, most are unlikely to have any surviving person or entity who can claim them.

“We strongly believe in supporting the fair use of orphan works material,” said Anne R. Kenney, Carl A. Kroch University Librarian at Cornell. “It continues our tradition of pushing hard to open up scholarly resources and helping to provide the broadest access possible to them.”

“We look forward to working with our colleagues on this initiative, which will not only benefit our respective users and our individual institutions, but also demonstrate the importance of working collaboratively through HathiTrust to increase access to knowledge,” said Winston Tabb, Sheridan Dean of University Libraries and Museums at Johns Hopkins University.


Even with these access restrictions, the Orphan Works Project will greatly improve access to a large amount of scholarly material that has been digitally unavailable due to copyright concerns. According to Kevin Smith, director of scholarly communications at Duke, “I think we can expect access to tens of thousands of orphan works within the first year. The speed with which that number could rise will depend on the ability of the community to do the work of identifying orphans.”

“Participating in this collaborative project helps our libraries bridge the divide between print collections, which are physically located in library buildings and storage facilities, and online discovery, browsing and access, which have become essential to the research process,” said Rick Luce, Vice Provost and Director of Libraries at Emory University.  “Many of these works have tremendous historical and cultural value, and they are an important part of the record of 20th century scholarship.”


“Because they are out-of-print, many of these materials can be hard to come by,” said Duke’s Deborah Jakubs, the Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and vice provost for library affairs. “This effort presents an opportunity to leverage the substantial investment Duke and our partner institutions have already made in our library collections. It will also improve the experience of library users, who can perform full-text searches of these works from their own computers, without having to come to the library in person or wait for off-site materials to be retrieved. It’s a win-win for access and usability.”

Read the Complete Announcement

See  Also: News That U. of California Has Also Joined the Project

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.