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Enhanced Access to HathiTrust

The 8 million print volumes in the Cornell University Library are a rich resource for students, faculty, and staff.  However, for Cornellians with print disabilities such as visual impairment, learning disabilities, or other disabilities, using printed resources can be difficult.  Thanks to an innovative program of the HathiTrust, many of these volumes can be made available to eligible users in an electronic form that makes reading easier.  That program is called “enhanced access.”

The HathiTrust Digital Library is a partnership of research libraries to preserve and provide access to their digitized holdings, currently numbering 10.8 million volumes.  About 32% (3.4 million volumes) are in the public domain and can be downloaded by any Cornell user.  HathiTrust also has over 7 million copyrighted volumes whose content can be searched but that cannot be read online: one has to borrow the library’s print copy to read the work.

The Enhanced Access program provides Cornell patrons with certified print disabilities access to the digital copies of in-copyright books.  A Cornell-designated proxy can download and give digital copies of books that Cornell owns in print to qualified Cornell patrons.  Patrons with print disabilities can find details of how to use this program’s services on the Cornell University Library’s Disability Services page.  In brief, students will need to certify with Student Disabilities Services (SDS), and faculty and staff will need to certify with Medical Leaves Administration (MLA).  A patron guide with full instructions is available at the URL above in PDF format, and guidance from proxies can be always obtained through the email address for this purpose.

Users should be aware that the works which they acquire through enhanced access are still protected by copyright.  The basis of this newly-broadened access is a recent legal decision that providing access to electronic versions of books to users with print disabilities is not an infringement of copyright. Copies made by this service are for personal use only and must not be shared with anyone else or copied beyond what is needed to facilitate personal use.

Services like this are broad collaborations.  I would like to thank the many people that have joined together over the past summer to make this service a reality: Kappy Fahey and Cyrus Hamilton of SDS; Carol Nickerson and Patti Riddle of MLA; Andrea Haenlin-Mott, Cornell’s ADA Facilities Coordinator; Laurel Parker of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion; Pat McClary of University Counsel’s Office; Peter Bosanko and Joy Veronneau of Identity Management, CIT; Tobi Hines, Peter Hirtle, Peter Magnus, Michelle Nair, and Bethany Silfer of CUL.  On behalf of DSPS – and of the patrons that will be assisted through this service that you have helped shape – thank you for your efforts and wise counsel.

Questions about the new service may be directed to either or to Michelle Paolillo, the Library’s HathiTrust Coordinator.


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