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HathiTrust Joins OpenAthens Federation

HathiTrust recently joined the OpenAthens Federation as a service provider, an action that will enable authorized member access to the HathiTrust corpus by libraries that use the OpenAthens identity provider to connect their patrons with online resources. OpenAthens is a UK-based identity and access management software and systems company serving 2,600 entities in education, healthcare, government and other industries around the world, including throughout Europe, Japan, New Zealand, and the U.S. 

Joining the OpenAthens Federation means that more academic libraries may be able to access HathiTrust services, including access to the largest digital library stewarded by the academic library community for the academic and research community. HathiTrust authorizes members-only access to users who log in and are authenticated locally by member institutions in compliance with Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) 2.0 protocols. Single sign-on access issues are a barrier to HathiTrust membership for some libraries without access to centralized identity and access management services from their institutions. For those libraries, Shibboleth and membership in a national federation, such as the InCommon Federation for U.S. organizations, can be difficult to implement on their own, and OpenAthens provides one hosted alternative.

Mike Furlough, Executive Director, says “Our membership in the OpenAthens Federation has the potential to open research paths for new communities of students and researchers.”

The Florida State University System (FSUS) and the University System of Georgia (USG) are among the first HathiTrust members to benefit from the new partnership. Some of the libraries that will now be able to access HathiTrust are located on campuses with student populations that are more than 50% Black or Hispanic, and five are designated Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) by the U.S. Department of Education.

Jason J. Battles, Deputy University Librarian at the University of Georgia Libraries, says, “We are excited to have HathiTrust join OpenAthens. It is going to provide 20 additional institutions in the University System of Georgia ... access to the HathiTrust membership the USG has been a part of for the past three years.”

Joining the OpenAthens Federation is one of several recent decisions aimed at lowering barriers to academic library membership in the collaborative. In 2019, HathiTrust members voted to modify its cost model to more reliably lower the annual fees for institutions with smaller annual budgets.

Libraries interested in learning more about the options available through OpenAthens or that are interested in joining HathiTrust in general should contact feedback@issues.hathitrust.org.



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