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Overview of HathiTrust Cost Model and Annual Fees

HathiTrust's Cost Allocation Model for Members

HathiTrust’s members share the costs of operating our services and programs.   Our annual budget includes expense elements to fund preservation and access services, administration, services of the HathiTrust Research Center, programs such as Copyright Review, US Federal Documents, and the Shared Print Program, and future strategic and infrastructure investments. HathiTrust members vote to approve the total budget each year before it goes into effect.     

HathiTrust’s cost allocation model is designed to equitably share costs across the membership, while also accounting for the variable benefit that individual libraries receive, which depends upon the number of copyrighted items held by their library, as well as in HathiTrust.

To accomplish this goal, we include two elements in each member’s total annual fees.  We assess costs through a fee associated with the public domain materials of our collection (a “common good” portion) and through one associated with the copyrighted materials in our collection.  To begin, we calculate a “cost-per-volume” that is equal to the total budget divided by the total number of volumes. In 2023, the cost-per-volume is $0.2294.


Calculating Fees

We calculate fees for each of these two elements differently.  Essentially, we allocate the proportion of the budget associated with the public domain and in copyright items using two unique formulas. 

Member and HathiTrust Holdings for Copyrighted Items

Member fees associated with the copyrighted portion of the collection are the sum total of the shared cost associated with each copyrighted volume held by HathiTrust and a given member library.   The amount assessed to a member varies by the number of members that hold a particular volume, as recorded in holdings data provided to HathiTrust by the member. For example, if the cost-per-volume were $0.20/volume, members holding a specific item would be assessed a percentage of that twenty cents for a given item. 

HathiTrust Copyright Based Cost Share


We calculate these costs for each item in the collection; the sum of these shared costs is the copyright-related element of a member’s total fee. Members are not assessed any fee for copyrighted items in HathiTrust that they do not hold, nor are they assessed any fee for items that they hold that are not found in HathiTrust.   

Membership Tier and Items in the Public Domain

40% of HathiTrust’s collection was in the public domain on July 1, 2022, when we calculated 2023 fees.  That same proportion of our total annual budget is divided among the entire membership according to a series of tiers.   All members in the same tier pay the same public domain fee. These amounts will vary from year to year as more members join HathiTrust and as more items are deposited and enter the public domain.

HathiTrust’s Tier System 

Each member library is assigned to one of three tiers based on the member's Total Library Expenditures as reported in public sources, such as IPEDS in the United States, and the CARL and CAUL statistics in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.  Tier placement affects only the annual public domain fee assessed to a member. Tier 2 libraries include the majority of members, who pay what is considered the “baseline” public domain fee ($7,414 in 2023). Libraries with the largest budgets (Tier 3) are assigned a higher “weight” of 1.33, and  pay a larger public domain fee (approximately 33% higher), while libraries with the smallest budgets (Tier 1) are assigned a smaller weight of 0.67 and pay a lower public domain fee (33% lower). Tiers invite a greater diversity of members to strengthen HathiTrust and the library community. All members receive the same services regardless of tier.  

A member’s public domain fees are calculated by dividing the cost associated with public domain volumes by the sum of member weights, then multiplying that figure by the member’s public domain weight. 

(Total Public Domain Cost / All Weights) x  Member’s Weight = Public Domain fee

Tiers have been constructed so that roughly equal numbers of members are assigned to Tier 1 and Tier 3, with the majority of the membership assigned to Tier 2.  

 Tier 1, 20%, Tier 2, 60%, Tier 3, 20%


The following table shows how HathiTrust has defined the tiers, the number of members assigned to each tier, and the public domain fee assessed to members in each tier in 2022. 




Lower Boundary

Upper Boundary

Number of Members in Tier

PD Weight

2023 Public Domain Fee

2023 Average Total Fee

(total library expenditures)

Tier 1





$ 4,968


Tier 2





$ 7,414


Tier 3





$ 9,861



Membership Tiers will remain in place for at least three years, and will be reassessed in 2022 (for 2023). 

Documentation for each member’s assignment to tiers can be reviewed here

Please see https://www.hathitrust.org/pricing_model_2019 for more detailed information and formulas relating to the fee model.

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