When our founder, Bill Bowen, envisioned JSTOR in 1995, he reached for a very big idea through a relatively small initiative. While our immediate goal was to convert backfiles of important scholarly journals into digital form, the big idea was to begin the transformation of the infrastructure that supports research, teaching, and learning – from buildings and shelves to servers and networks. We initially thought that this conversion would benefit those with journals on their shelves, and indeed it did. Space used for storing volumes that were rarely consulted have been repurposed into spaces for collaboration, learning, design, and creation. And moving the content to digital form and disseminating it on the wires has reduced costs so drastically that collections once accessible exclusively at research universities are now available to learners at every kind of institution – large and small, rich and poor – all over the world.
Ideas that felt new in the 2000s are common practice now. We license technology services from the cloud, we search the world’s information in a nanosecond, and we buy goods on the internet and have them delivered to our doors. At ITHAKA, we have facilitated this digital transformation for the research and education community through the provision of services like JSTOR, Artstor, Portico, and Ithaka S+R. These services have enabled our community to preserve and provide access to knowledge in ways that are more economical and impactful, and helped our leaders make informed, evidence-based strategic decisions.
With the onset of the COVID pandemic, educational institutions around the world adjusted remarkably well. As a result of the investments of colleges and universities and their libraries in digital collections, online tools, and community infrastructure – bolstered by the truly heroic contributions of you and your colleagues – it was possible to support remote learning and research in ways that would not have been possible even just a few years ago. Of course, we also learned how far we are from being able to fully realize the future we strive to create: many collections are still not accessible, representative, or sufficiently secure; digital infrastructure and services still make collaboration among researchers and learners harder than it should be; and some of our existing structures and practices are impeding progress towards expanded access to knowledge.
At ITHAKA, we continuously reflect on what we are learning from our experience in a changing environment and ask how we can best contribute. What can we do to help the higher education community deliver more affordable and sustainable access to knowledge for more people? For 2023, we have identified three areas of focus: making more content universally accessible, preserving at-risk materials, and improving the utility of all this knowledge.
In the coming months, we’ll be inviting broad community participation in a variety of initiatives to deliver on these aims.
- We’re charting a path to open access for scholarly books in partnership with university presses and libraries to support publishing diverse voices and ideas
- We’re fully integrating Artstor and JSTOR to deliver a high-quality, multi-content research and teaching experience
- We’re launching hosting and preservation services to enable libraries to share their digital collections with millions of users around the world and to ensure their long-term sustainability
- We’re taking steps to preserve emerging digital scholarship and collections of under-represented materials through experimentation and collaboration with publishers and archives
- We’re rolling out an updated funding model to enable vastly increased access to the extensive journal archive and primary source collections the scholarly community has helped us to create
- We’re gearing up for our next wave of growth for Constellate, our new teaching and learning platform for text analysis.
Through these efforts and others like them, we will provide platforms and infrastructure that meet the emerging needs of the higher education community in ways that reflect our mission-driven commitments to preservation, sustainability, openness, and innovation.
We’re more excited about our mission than ever, and we couldn’t be more grateful to be partnered in this work with you. The ultimate measure of our success will be whether we are delivering more access to knowledge for more people, affordably and sustainably. We look forward to your engagement and to sharing our progress with you.
Wishing you well in 2023.