A Consortium for Sharing Primary Materials by Joseph J. Esposito – CEO, GiantChair


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Thursday Morning Plenary Session
November 4, 2010, 9:00 am

Ever since Google entered the picture with its controversial mass-digitization project, a number of new projects have sprung up, seemingly competing with one another in terms of their scope and ambition. Meanwhile, there is a place for starting with smaller projects, as these are easier to plan, easier to implement--and easier to discard, in whole or in part, if they don't turn out as once was hoped. With this in mind, there appears to be an opportunity to develop an economically sustainable suite of resources, based
at least initially on primary materials, which would open up the special collections of any single institution to all members of the consortium. The basic principle of this program is that access to these materials is made available only to other consortium members, thereby requiring all members to take on the responsibility of curation for one part of the overall collection.

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A Consortium for Sharing Primary Materials by Joseph J. Esposito – CEO, GiantChair

  1. 1. Creating a Consortium to Share Primary Materials Joseph J. Esposito Charleston November 2010
  2. 2. The Basic Idea Create a consortium of academic institutions to digitize and share important collections with other members; have strong governance policies and stiff requirements for membership.
  3. 3. Topics • The primary focus here is on the business model • Problems for digitization projects • The economics of a consortium (built on the “circle of gifts” model) • Policy issues and governance • Benefits and limitations
  4. 4. And a Request . . . • Please help me come up with a name for this new service
  5. 5. A New Consortium Model • Begin with 5 founding institutions • Each undertakes to digitize and curate a collection of some importance and scope • Each commits to ongoing maintenance • Each invests money for a consortium management team • Each gets access to the others’ collections
  6. 6. Benefits • Eliminates free-rider problem • Enormous leverage in membership (one investment yields a return of a great many collections); the model scales • Costs remain steady; value continues to grow • Unlikely to be de-funded (value/leverage is too great)
  7. 7. Hypothetical Problem and Goals • A library has a special collection of private papers • The aim is to digitize the collection and make it available to the institution’s community • Preference for making the collection available more broadly
  8. 8. Some Problems to Be Solved • Intellectual Property: What rights does the library control? • Do the papers have the proper scope for a collection (e.g., sufficiently comprehensive)? • Digitization project management • Protecting original materials • Hosting the service • Curation of the collection
  9. 9. Problems #2 • How to plan for ongoing maintenance? • How to bring the collection to users’ attention? • And, of course, how are we going to pay for all this? • Let’s not leave out the inherent problem of planning anything because of the unanticipated
  10. 10. $$$ Focus on Financing $$$ 1. Research and planning costs (one-time) 2. Start-up costs (one-time) 3. Maintenance costs (ongoing) 4. Enhancements costs (requires reserve)
  11. 11. Research and Planning • Feasibility study • Interview key members of community • Develop typology for project and environment (not of the market because this is not a market-based initiative) • Deliverable: Paper defining goals and issues • May be best to stop short of business plan
  12. 12. Start-up Costs • Digitization and preservation • Management team • Contract with hosting firm • Editorial/curation costs • Expenses/fees for advisory boards • And more
  13. 13. Maintenance Costs • Ongoing hosting fees • Ongoing curation fees • Marketing (demand creation, both to users and to prospective members) • Management fee (for consortium management)
  14. 14. Enhancement Costs • New features • New technologies • Business development (e.g., expand beyond U.S.) • Retrospective redigitization • Special editorial projects
  15. 15. Issues with Financing • Scope of costs means that some projects never get off the ground • The proven—yes, proven—business models of some open access services do not apply here • Sometimes thinking big gets in the way of starting small
  16. 16. Tasks for Management • Create business plan • Seek grants for start-up costs • Set up advisory committees • Develop policies for membership, fees, levels of curation, audits • Develop progressive requirements and fees
  17. 17. Objections • How about unaffiliated scholars? • What about institutions that need access for teaching, but cannot curate collections? • Why restrict access at all? Why not open access?
  18. 18. Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome. Samuel Johnson
  19. 19. Why Primary Documents? • Potentially fewer IP issues • Public domain books now being addressed by multiple parties • Not likely to be addressed comprehensively by commercial entities • Provides a platform for other content types • You have to start somewhere
  20. 20. Summary of Business Principles • Seek leverage in working in a consortium • Mandate stiff requirements for membership • Audit members’ performance • Focus on value created, not cost (the issue of scale) • Eliminate free riders • Appoint STRONG management team
  21. 21. So What Should We Call This Darn Thing?