Upfront investment in user-friendly back-end systems allows for continual growth

The Home Economics Archive: Research, Tradition and History (HEARTH) is a digitized collection of academic and popular monographs and journals comprising the core literature of home economics, or, as it is more commonly known today, human ecology. Created at Cornell University’s Mann Library, which serves primarily Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Human Ecology, HEARTH was launched in 2003 with the support of a two-year IMLS National Leadership grant. Today, it is one of Cornell’s most popular online collections, and all ongoing support for it is provided by either Mann Library or the Cornell University Library system. This internally sponsored ongoing development is possible because the user-friendly back-end program created by the HEARTH programmer enables inexperienced staff to efficiently and inexpensively add to the collection materials from an already selected core-literature bibliography.

This case study is one of eight conducted as part of an IMLS-funded project in collaboration with the Association of Research Libraries. The final report, Searching for Sustainability: Strategies from Eight Digitized Special Collections, offers findings drawn from all eight cases, highlighting the ways in which libraries and cultural heritage organizations have undertaken to move their special collections into the 21st century through digitization and ongoing investments to ensure the collections remain valuable to users over time.