News: updated sustainability case studies

Ithaka S+R and the Strategic Content Alliance revisit and update sustainability case studies

In 2009, Ithaka S+R published twelve detailed case studies of online digital resources, exploring the strategies project leaders were using to sustain those projects for the long term. All of the case studies have been updated in 2011. Read on to find out more and download the case studies.

It is striking to note the cavalcade of business know-how and other associated sustainability advice and guidance – printed, electronic and events being aimed at organisations such as colleges, universities, libraries, museums etc as a result of the current perfect storm of reduced funding, recession and rapid technological change.

These case studies are truly unique, as they cite real world financial information, something conveniently overlooked by many other publications. We have revisited a cross-section of emergent internet business models and how these are being applied not just at a particular moment in time, but over a two year period from 2009-2011.

Each case study takes into account the effects of reduced funding, staffing cuts, organisation change, new revenue streams and changes in tack and direction by some.

These case studies are aimed at assisting practitioners understand the challenges and opportunities being addressed by developers of digital content collections at home and abroad in education and cultural heritage-type organisations during turbulent times.

We will be releasing a comprehensive report, based on these case studies, including a synthesis of emergent trends, executive summary and a supportive decision-making tool at the Arts Council England-BBC Academy Building Capacity in the Arts archives event on 6th October 2011. This event will be followed by a series of webinars from mid-October onwards. If you would like to know more about this, or are interested in receiving further information on future sustainability work, please email

The cases covered include scholar-led initiatives, library and museum projects, and publishing projects with a diverse range of revenue models (e. subscription-based projects, endowment-funded resources, and open access digital libraries).

Download the case studies

• Department of Digital Humanities (formerly, Centre for Computing in the Humanities), King’s College London (UK) – A degree-granting academic department supporting research projects in the digital humanities that has faced challenges due to recent changes in the UK funding system (

DigiZeitschriften, Göttingen State and University Library (Germany) – An archive of German language scholarly journals supported by a library partnership model and institutional subscriptions that covers its costs, but may have challenges ahead (

eBird, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University (USA) – A web-based database of birding observations that has thrived by serving both amateur bird-watchers and academic researchers (

Electronic Enlightenment, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford (UK) – An online collection of edited correspondence from the early seventeenth century to the mid-nineteenth century, which illustrates the benefits and challenges of outsourcing key functions (

Hindawi Publishing Corporation (Egypt) – A for-profit publishing company that has grown by using an open access contributor-pays business model (

Inamédiapro and, L’Institut national de l’audiovisuel (France) – Two divisions within the National Audiovisual Institute that illustrate the balance of mission-based goals and revenue generation (

Licensed Internet Associates Programme, The National Archives (UK). An initiative within The National Archives (TNA) that works with commercial partners to digitise their holdings, and to enhance the value of that content through careful selection and curation (

The Middle School Portal 2: Math and Science Pathways, National Science Digital Library. The Ohio State University (USA) – An online network of collections, services, and tools for math and science teachers that faces an uncertain future as the end of its grant funding approaches (

Southampton Library Digitisation Unit (formerly, BOPCRIS), Hartley Library, University of Southampton (UK) – A university library-based digitisation center that has shifted focus from providing services to external clients to serving its host institution (

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University (USA) – An online open access encyclopedia with user-contributed content which launched a ‘freemium’ model to supplement payouts from its project endowment (

Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, University of California, Irvine (USA) – A digitised collection of ancient Greek texts, whose subscription model has strengthened by its efforts to broaden its audience (

V&A Images, Victoria and Albert Museum (UK) -The image licensing unit at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which struggled to cover costs of its commercial activities, while also providing free services to the larger organisation and to researchers (

You can also download the individual case studies and  receive alerts on the October release at

Find the original case studies and reports here: