Creating and Using Collections in
the HathiTrust Digital Library

In 2011, the Boston College Libraries became a partner institution of HathiTrust Digital Library. While BC community members have been enjoying the electronic full text access to almost 5 million public domain volumes and limited search access to over 7 million more, many may be unaware of the existence of user-created "collections" and how these collections can yield additional benefits from HathiTrust.

Why would you want to create a collection of materials on HathiTrust? There are good reasons for research, teaching, and diversion. You can, for instance, create a collection of relevant readings to share with your students. You can save a personal collection of books to read later, perhaps to download and read while travelling. You can use your collection to save unusual books you find while searching. While more robust tools are required for serious text mining (for more advanced research support see http://www.hathitrust.org/htrc ), collections are searchable, so you can gather together material to do a quick search through an entire author's works, or works on a particular theme. Your collection can be made private or public. If you choose to make it public, you can use it to promote items from HathiTrust to the larger community. As the default sort order is by collection title, having a title that starts with a numeral or the letter "A" will give your collection greater visibility.

How have other members of the BC community been using HathiTrust Collections? Jonas Barciauskas, O'Neill Library Head of Collection Development, created a collection titled Jesuitica, which, he explains, is "composed of nineteen pre-1923 out-of-copyright volumes of the Monumenta Historica Societatis Jesu, which can now be keyword searched in much the same way that you can search the much larger digitized book collections of Early English Books Online (EEBO) and Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO)."

For the joint purposes of experimentation and amusement I created a collection of the canonical Sherlock Holmes. This has the full text of all the A. Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes works, except for the one remaining compilation still in copyright, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (1927). The full text works in the collection can be viewed from anywhere with Internet access, or by downloading the PDFs to a device. The collection can be used to search for occurrences of names or other words or phrases throughout the Sherlock Holmes stories. Interested in knowing where the word "singular" is used? It is hardly a singular instance! Or you could search for which stories reference "Thames" or "river" or "giant rat of Sumatra." Use "search in this collection" to search for the term and then click on the volumes in the results to search for the term within each. Even with the limited view privileges for the Case-Book you can see the page numbers for each instance, although you can't read the text.

The Sherlock Holmes Collection. The Sherlock Holmes Collection. Note that The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes indicates it is limited (search-only)

Looking for other examples of how collections are being used? HathiTrust has several Featured Collections, including the English Short Title Catalog and a large collection of Islamic Manuscripts digitized by the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Other collections of note include a lovely selection of "little gems" which has items like an 1882 manual for "garnishing" churches for Christmas, as well as answers to anything you could possibly need to know, which HathiTrust copyright reviewers found serendipitously along the way. You can search all collections or recently updated collections for more.

Geldart, E. (1882). Geldart, E. (1882). The art of garnishing churches at Christmas and other times: a manual of directions. London: Cox Sons, Buckley. In the HathiTrust Collection Copyright Review project (CRMS) little gems

What you can't do with collections... (yet?): The functionality in HathiTrust collections is currently fairly basic. Many operations and tools which are standard in modern databases are not available. Some frustrations: You can copy and share the link to your public collections (or any other public collections), but there are no on-board social media tools to conveniently tweet, Facebook or Pin your collection. The URLs generated for collections aren't pretty. You can't see usage statistics for your collection, annotate the selections in your collection, or create a custom order for the items to appear in the list. You can't contact owners of collections, or add or suggest items for other people's collections.

Enquire Within Upon Everything

Creating a small collection is relatively simple. While those who do not have institutional membership in HathiTrust can create a "friends" password and create collections, it is simpler for those logging in as BC community members. In addition, logging in with your BC username and password allows you to do other things, like download full text of books (non-members can only download a page at a time or read online.) For large and complex collections, HathiTrust has a variety of tools, and they can also provide assistance in creating a collection. Your subject specialist librarian can also help you in constructing searches in HathiTrust to find the books and other materials to add to your collection. Information on all the ways to create collections is available here.

To learn more about HathiTrust Collections and tools for more advanced text research:

Enid Karr
Senior Reference Librarian/Bibliographer
O'Neill Library