Recent Report from IFLA: How well did copyright laws serve libraries during COVID-19?

The short answer to this question from a report recently published by IFLA appears to be: not very well at all. The report documents a worldwide survey of 114 libraries, 83% of which said they had copyright-related challenges providing materials during pandemic-related facility closures. The report also provides direct quotes from a series of interviews of library professionals, discussing the challenges they faced and often how difficult digital access to necessary materials such as textbooks has been throughout the last two years. As one librarian from the United States explains:

Times were tough. We were scrambling and worried about so many things – including the health and safety of our students, faculty and colleagues – and trying to spin up as much as possible in the way of service. There are certainly some vendors that we personally like the interactions with, but it felt to me like the publishers saw this as an opportunity just to make more money and not really an opportunity to build stronger connections with us and our library. They offered free things for a very limited period of time.

The report is well worth reading in its 22-page entirety. You can find it here.

Preserving Pro-Democracy Books From Shuttered Hong Kong Bookstore

Albert Wan ran Bleak House Books, an independent bookstore in Hong Kong, for nearly five years, before closing it in late 2021. The changing political climate and crackdown on dissent within Hong Kong made life too uncertain for Wan, his wife and two children. 

As they were preparing to move, Wan packed a box of books at risk of being purged by the government. He brought them on a plane back to the United States in January and donated them to the Internet Archive for preservation. 

The collection includes books about the pro-democracy protests of 2019—some photography books; another was a limited edition book of essays by young journalists who covered the event. There was a book about the Tiananmen Square massacre and volumes about Hong Kong politics, culture and history—most written in Chinese. 

“In Hong Kong, because the government is restricting and policing speech in a way that is even causing libraries to remove books from shelves, I thought that it would be good to digitize books about Hong Kong that might be in danger of disappearing entirely,” Wan said.

“I thought that it would be good to digitize books about Hong Kong that might be in danger of disappearing entirely.”

Albert Wan, owner of the now-closed Bleak House Books

Hearing that Bleak House Books would be shutting its doors, the Internet Archive reached out and offered to digitize its remaining books. As it happens, Wan said his inventory was dwindling quickly. So, he gathered contributions from others, and along with some from his own collection, donated about thirty books and some periodicals to the Internet Archive for preservation and digitization. Wan said he was amazed at how flexible and open the Archive was in the process, assisting with shipping and scanning the materials at no cost to him. (See Hong Kong Community Collection.)

Now, Wan wants others to do the same.

“There are still titles out there that have never been digitized and might be on the radar for being purged or sort of hidden from public view,” Wan said. “The hope is that more people would contribute and donate those kinds of books to the Archive and have them digitized so that people still have access to them.”

Do you have books you’d like to donate to the Internet Archive? Learn more.

Wan said he likes how the Internet Archive operates using controlled digital lending (CDL) where the items can be borrowed one at time, not infringing on the rights of the authors, while providing broad public access.

Before his family moved to Hong Kong for his wife’s university teaching job, Wan was a civil rights and criminal defense attorney in private practice. Now, they are all getting settled in Rochester, New York, where Wan plans to open another bookshop.

Memorial Day BBQ, Live Music and Lost Landscapes at the Internet Archive – Monday May 30, 2022

Calling all SF Cineastes and Archivists!

LOST LANDSCAPES is BACK!! With BBQ and live music too!

Come join the fun this Memorial Day and hang out with us at the Internet Archive.

$1 hotdogs, live music by the Traveling Wilburys Revue then onto a screening of Prelinger Archives’ “Lost Landscapes: Earth, Fire, Air, Water: California Infrastructures“.

Date: Monday, May 30, 2022
When:
5:30 PM BBQ – 6:30 PM Live Music – 8:15 PM Film Screening
Where:
300 Funston Ave., San Francisco, CA
Cost:
$15.00

GET YOUR TICKETS HERE

Goodbye Facebook. Hello Decentralized Social Media?

The pending sale of Twitter to Elon Musk has generated a buzz about the future of social media and just who should control our data.

Wendy Hanamura, director of partnerships at the Internet Archive, moderated an online discussion April 28 “Goodbye Facebook, Hello Decentralized Social Media?” about the opportunities and dangers ahead. The webinar is part of a series of six workshops, “Imagining a Better Online World: Exploring the Decentralized Web.” 

Watch the session recording:

The session featured founders of some of the top decentralized social media networks including Jay Graber, chief executive officer of R&D project Bluesky, Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of Matrix, and Andre Staltz, creator of Manyverse. Unlike Twitter, Facebook or Slack, Matrix and Manyverse have no central controlling entity. Instead the peer-to-peer networks shift power to the users and protect privacy. 

If Twitter is indeed bought and people are disappointed with the changes, the speakers expressed hope that the public will consider other social networks. “A crisis of this type means that people start installing Manyverse and other alternatives,” Staltz said. “The opportunity side is clear.” Still in the transition period if other platforms are not ready, there is some risk that users will feel stuck and not switch, he added.

Hodgson said there are reasons to be both optimistic and pessimistic about Musk purchasing Twitter. The hope is that he will use his powers for good, making it available to everybody and empowering people to block the content they don’t want to see. The risk is with no moderation, Hodgson said, people will be obnoxious to one another without sufficient controls to filter, and the system will melt down. “It’s certainly got potential to be an experiment. I’m cautiously optimistic on it,” he said.

People who work in decentralized tech recognize the risk that comes when one person can control a network and act for good or bad, Graber said. “This turn of events demonstrates that social networks that are centralized can change very quickly,” she said. “Those changes can potentially disrupt or drastically alter people’s identity, relationships, and the content that they put on there over the years. This highlights the necessity for transition to a protocol-based ecosystem.” 

When a platform is user-controlled, it is resilient to disruptive change, Graber said. Decentralization enables immutability so change is hard and is a slow process that requires a lot of people to agree, added Staltz.

The three leaders spoke about how decentralized networks provide a sustainable alternative and are gaining traction. Unlike major players that own user data and monetize personal information, decentralized networks are controlled by users and information lives in many different places.

“Society as a whole is facing a lot of crises,” Graber said. “We have the ability to, as a collective intelligence, to investigate a lot of directions at once. But we don’t actually have the free ability to fully do this in our current social architecture…if you decentralize, you get the ability to innovate and explore many more directions at once. And all the parts get more freedom and autonomy.”

Decentralized social media is structured to change the balance of power, added Hanamura: “In this moment, we want you to know that you have the power. You can take back the power, but you have to understand it and understand your responsibility.”

The webinar was co-sponsored by DWeb and Library Futures, and presented by the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO).

The next event in the series, Decentralized Apps, the Metaverse and the “Next Big Thing,” will be held Thursday, May 26 at 4-5 p.m.EST, Register here

Fireside Chat: Congressman Ro Khanna in conversation with Larry Lessig

Could Ro Khanna be the first Asian American President of the United States?

California Congressman Ro Khanna is a political rising star, one that some Democrats see as the future of the Party. Known both for his progressive leadership and his ability to work across the aisle, Khanna – who represents Silicon Valley – is one of the most important figures setting tech policy in our nation today.

The Internet Archive invites you to come hear Khanna speak about his vision for the future. In Dignity in the Digital Age: Making Tech Work for All of Us, Khanna offers a vision for democratizing digital innovation to build economically vibrant and inclusive communities. Instead of being subject to tech’s reshaping of our economy, Khanna offers that we must channel those powerful forces toward creating a more healthy, equal, and democratic society.

On Tuesday, May 31st, 6pm PT/9pm ET, Representative Khanna will be interviewed by professor Larry Lessig, a digital access visionary and co-founder of Creative Commons and the Free Culture movement. Lessig himself ran for President in the Democratic primaries in 2016. The Internet Archive is honored to have these two great thinkers sharing our stage, for one night only! Please join us for this exciting political conversation either virtually or in-person at the Internet Archive, 300 Funston Ave, San Francisco. 

REGISTER NOW!

A note about safety for our in-person audience: The Internet Archive is taking COVID precautions very seriously. We will be requiring proof of vaccination and masks indoors. There will be no food or beverages served (though there will be a water station). We are limiting seating in our huge, thousand seat Great Room to only 200 people. And of course we will have our large windows and doors open to ensure good airflow. We are working hard to make sure that this event is as safe as can be! Please reserve your seats ASAP.


New additions to the Internet Archive for April 2022

Many items are added to the Internet Archive’s collections every month, by us and by our patrons. Here’s a round up of some of the new media you might want to check out. Logging in might be required to borrow certain items. 

Notable new collections from our patrons: 

  • Chris Cromwell Rare Reel to Reel Tapes – Rare and recovered reel-to-reel tapes from a variety of sources and preserved by Chris Cromwell. 
  • 1940s Classic TV – Television from the 1940s.
  • Game Shows Archive – A collection of game shows throughout television history, involving chance, skill and luck, usually presided over by a host and providing in-show commercials.
  • Dutch Television – Television programs and videos in the Dutch language, or from the Netherlands.

Books – 50,109 New items in April

This month we’ve added books on varied subjects in more than 20 languages. Click through to explore, but here are a few interesting items to start with:

Audio Archive – 150,224 New Items in April

The audio archive contains recordings ranging from alternative news programming, to Grateful Dead concerts, to Old Time Radio shows, to book and poetry readings, to original music uploaded by our users. Explore.

LibriVox Audiobooks – 99 New Items in April

Founded in 2005, Librivox is a community of volunteers from all over the world who record audiobooks of public domain texts in many different languages. Explore.

78 RPMs and Cylinder Recordings – 6,745 New Items in April

Listen to this collection of 78rpm records, cylinder recordings, and other recordings from the early 20th century. Explore.

Live Music Archive – 909 New Items in April

The Live Music Archive is a community committed to providing the highest quality live concerts in a lossless, downloadable format, along with the convenience of on-demand streaming (all with artist permission). Explore.

Netlabels111 New Items in April

This collection hosts complete, freely downloadable/streamable, often Creative Commons-licensed catalogs of ‘virtual record labels’. These ‘netlabels’ are non-profit, community-built entities dedicated to providing high quality, non-commercial, freely distributable MP3/OGG-format music for online download in a multitude of genres. Explore.

Movies – 55 New Items in April

Watch feature films, classic shorts, documentaries, propaganda, movie trailers, and more! Explore.

Library as Laboratory: Lightning Talks

In this final session of the Internet Archive’s digital humanities expo, Library as Laboratory, attendees heard from scholars in a series of short presentations about their research and how they’re using collections and infrastructure from the Internet Archive for their work.

Speakers:

  • Forgotten Histories of the Mid-Century Coding Bootcamp, [watch] Kate Miltner (University of Edinburgh)
  • Japan As They Saw It, [watch] Tom Gally (University of Tokyo)
  • The Bibliography of Life, [watch] Rod Page (University of Glasgow)
  • Q&A #1 [watch]
  • More Than Words: Fed Chairs’ Communication During Congressional Testimonies, [watch] Michelle Alexopoulos (University of Toronto)
  • WARC Collection Summarization, [watch] Sawood Alam (Internet Archive)
  • Automatic scanning with an Internet Archive TT scanner, [watch] Art Rhyno (University of Windsor)
  • Q&A #2 [watch]
  • Automated Hashtag Hierarchy Generation Using Community Detection and the Shannon Diversity Index, [watch] Spencer Torene (Thomson Reuters Special Services, LLC)
  • My Internet Archive Enabled Journey As A Digital Humanities Citizen Scientist, [watch] Jim Salmons
  • Web and cities: (early internet) geographies through the lenses of the Internet Archive, [watch] Emmanouil Tranos (University of Bristol)
  • Forgotten Novels of the 19th Century, [watch] Tom Gally (University of Tokyo)
  • Q&A #3 [watch]

Links shared during the session are available in the series Resource Guide.


WARC Collection Summarization

Sawood Alam (Internet Archive)

Items in the Internet Archive’s Petabox collections of various media types like image, video, audio, book, etc. have rich metadata, representative thumbnails, and interactive hero elements. However, web collections, primarily containing WARC files and their corresponding CDX files, often look opaque. We created an open-source CLI tool called “CDX Summary” [1] to process sorted CDX files and generate reports. These summary reports give insights on various dimensions of CDX records/captures, such as, total number of mementos, number of unique original resources, distribution of various media types and their HTTP status codes, path and query segment counts, temporal spread, and capture frequencies of top TLDs, hosts, and URIs. We also implemented a uniform sampling algorithm to select a given number of random memento URIs (i.e., URI-Ms) with 200 OK HTML responses that can be utilized for quality assurance purposes or as a representative sample for the collection of WARC files. Our tool can generate both comprehensive and brief reports in JSON format as well as human readable textual representation. We ran our tool on a selected set of public web collections in Petabox, stored resulting JSON files in their corresponding collections, and made them accessible publicly (with the hope that they might be useful for researchers). Furthermore, we implemented a custom Web Component that can load CDX Summary report JSON files and render them in interactive HTML representations. Finally, we integrated this Web Component into the collection/item views of the main site of the Internet Archive, so that patrons can access rich and interactive information when they visit a web collection/item in Petabox. We also found our tool useful for crawl operators as it helped us identify numerous issues in some of our crawls that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.
[1] https://github.com/internetarchive/cdx-summary/ 


More Than Words: Fed Chairs’ Communication During Congressional Testimonies

Michelle Alexopoulos (University of Toronto)

 Economic policies enacted by the government and its agencies have large impacts on the welfare of businesses and individuals—especially those related to fiscal and monetary policy. Communicating the details of the policies to the public is an important and complex undertaking. Policymakers tasked with the communication not only need to present complicated information in simple and relatable terms, but they also need to be credible and convincing—all the while being at the center of the media’s spotlight. In this briefing, I will discuss recent research on the applications of AI to monetary policy communications, and lessons learned to date. In particular, I will report on my recent ongoing project with researchers at the Bank of Canada that analyzes the effects of emotional cues by the Chairs of the U.S. Federal Reserve on financial markets during congressional testimonies.  

While most previous work has mainly focused on the effects of a central bank’s highly scripted messages about its rate decisions delivered by its leader, we use resources from the Internet Archive, CSPAN and copies of testimony transcripts and apply a variety of tools and techniques to study the both the messages and the messengers’ delivery of them. I will review how we apply recent advances in machine learning and big data to construct measures of Federal Reserve Chair’s emotions, expressed via his or her words, voice, and face, as well as discuss challenges encountered and our findings to date. In all, our initial results highlight the salience of the Fed Chair’s emotional cues for shaping market responses to Fed communications. Understanding the effects of non-verbal communication and responses to verbal cues may help policy makers improve upon their communication strategies going forward.  


Digging into the (Internet) Archive: Examining the NSFW Model Responsible for the 2018 Tumblr Purge

Renata Barreto (University of California Berkeley)

In December 2018, Tumblr took down massive amounts of LGBTQ content from its platform. Motivated in part by increasing pressures from financial institutions and a newly passed law — SESTA / FOSTA, which made companies liable for sex trafficking online — Tumblr implemented a strict “not safe for work” or NSFW model, whose false positives included images of fully clothed women, handmade and digital art, and other innocuous objects, such as vases. The Archive Team, in conjunction with the Internet Archive, jumped into high gear and began to scrape self-tagged NSFW blogs in the 2 weeks between Tumblr’s announcement of its new policy and its algorithmic operationalization. At the time, Tumblr was considered a safe haven for the LGBTQ community and in 2013 Yahoo! bought Tumblr for 1.1 billion. In the aftermath of the so-called “Tumblr purge,” Tumblr lost its main user base and, as of 2019, was valued at 3 million. This paper digs into a slice of the 90 TB of data saved by the Archive Team. This is a unique opportunity to peek under the hood of Yahoo’s open_nsfw model, which experts believe was used in the Tumblr purge, and examine the distribution of false positives on the Archive Team dataset. Specifically, we run the open_nsfw model on our dataset and use the t-SNE algorithm to project the similarities across images on 3D space.


Japan As They Saw It (video)

Tom Gally (University of Tokyo)

“Japan As They Saw It” is a collection of descriptions of Japan by American and British visitors in the 1850s and later. Japan had been closed to outsiders for more than two centuries, and there was much curiosity in the West about this newly accessible country. The excerpts are grouped by category—Land, People, Culture, etc.—and each excerpt is linked to the book where it first appeared at the Internet Archive. “Japan As They Saw It” can be read online, or it can be downloaded as a free ebook.


Forgotten Novels of the 19th Century (video)

Tom Gally (University of Tokyo)

Novels were the binge-watched television, the hit podcasts of the 19th century—immersive, addictive, commercial—and they were produced and consumed in huge numbers. But many novels of that era have slipped through the cracks of literary memory. “Forgotten Novels of the 19th Century” is a list of fifty of those neglected novels, all waiting to be discovered and read for free at the Internet Archive.


Forgotten Histories of the Mid-Century Coding Bootcamp

Kate Miltner (University of Edinburgh)

Over the past 10 years, Americans have been exhorted to “learn to code” in order to solve a series of entrenched social issues: the tech “skills gap”, the looming threat of AI and automation, social mobility, and the underrepresentation of women and people of color in the tech industry. In response to this widespread discourse, an entire industry of short-term intensive training courses– otherwise known as coding bootcamps– have sprung up across the US, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue a year and training tens of thousands of people. Coding bootcamps have been framed as a novel kind of institution that is equipped to solve contemporary problems. However, materials from the Internet Archive show us that, in fact, a similar discourse about computer programming and similar organizations called EDP schools existed over 70 years ago. This talk will showcase materials from the Ted Nelson Archive and the Computerworld archive to showcase how lessons from the past can inform the present.


The Bibliography of Life

Roderic Page (University of Glasgow)

The “bibliography of life” is the aspiration of making all the taxonomic literature available so that for every species on the planet we can find its original description, as well as track how our knowledge of those species has changed over time. By combining content from the Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine with information in Wikidata we can make 100’s of thousands of taxonomic publications discoverable, and many of these can also be freely read via the Internet Archive. This presentation will outline this project, how it relates to efforts such as the Biodiversity Heritage Library, and highlight some tools such as Wikicite Search and ALEC to help export this content.


Automatic scanning with an Internet Archive TT scanner (video)

Art Rhyno (University of Windsor)

The University of Windsor has set up a mechanism for automatic scanning with an Internet Archive TT scanner, used for the library’s Major Papers collection.


Automated Hashtag Hierarchy Generation Using Community Detection and the Shannon Diversity Index

Spencer Torene (Thomson Reuters Special Services, LLC)

Developing  semantic  hierarchies  from  user-created  hashtags  in  social  media  can  provide  useful  organizational  structure  to  large  volumes  of  data.  However,  construction of  these  hierarchies  is  difficult  using  established  ontologies  (e.g.  WordNet)  due  to the differences in the semantic and pragmatic use of words vs. hashtags in social media. While alternative construction methods based on hashtag frequency are relatively straightforward, these methods can be susceptible to the dynamic nature of social media,  such  as  hashtags  associated  with  surges  in  popularity.  We  drew  inspiration  from the ecologically-based Shannon Diversity Index (SDI) to create a more representative and  resilient  method  of  semantic  hierarchy  construction  that  relies  upon  graph-based community detection and a novel, entropy-based ensemble diversity index (EDI) score. The EDI quantifies the contextual diversity of each hashtag, resulting in thousands of semantically-related groups of hashtags organized along a general-to-specific spectrum. Through an application of EDI to social media data (Twitter) and a comparison of our results to prior approaches, we demonstrate our method’s ability to create semantically consistent hierarchies that can be flexibly applied and adapted to a range of use cases.


Web and cities: (early internet) geographies through the lenses of the Internet Archive

Emmanouil Tranos (University of Bristol)

While geographers first turned their focus on the internet 25 years ago, the wealth of data that the Internet Archive preserves and offers remains at large unexplored, especially for large projects in terms of scope and geographical scale. However, there is hardly any other data source that depicts the evolution of our interaction with the digital and, importantly, the spatial footprint of this interaction better than the Internet Archive. Therefore, the last few years we have been using extensively data from the Internet Archive in order to understand the geography and the evolution of the creation of online content and their interrelation with cities and spatial structure. Specifically, we have worked with The British Library and utilised the JISC UK Web Domain Dataset (1996-2013)1 for a number of projects in order to (i) explore whether the availability of online content of local interest can attract individuals online, (ii) assess how the early engagement with web tools can affect future productivity, (iii) map the evolution of economic clusters, and (iv) predict interregional trade flows. The Internet Archive helps us not only to map the evolution and the geography of the engagement with the internet especially at its early stages and, therefore, draw important lessons regarding new future technologies, but also to understand economic activities that take place within and between cities.
1http://data.webarchive.org.uk/opendata/ukwa.ds.2/

Preserving Wilmington History on the Web

Guest Post by: Tricia Dean, Tech Services Manager at Wilmington Public Library District (IL)

This post is part of a series written by members of the Community Webs program. Community Webs advances the capacity for community-focused memory organizations to build web and digital archives documenting local histories and underrepresented voices. For more information, visit communitywebs.archive-it.org/

Wilmington Public Library. Photo: T. Dean 4/21/22

I was excited when I saw the call for participants in Community Webs. While Wilmington, Illinois is a small, rural town (5,664 people), the thought was that we still had something to contribute. Most Archive-It partners are universities, museums and large libraries, and being in their company was a little daunting to me initially. Other institutions have someone who opens the project, and then it develops into a larger team project. Wilmington Public Library District (WPLD) has a much smaller staff; the project has been wholly mine, which has been both thrilling and terrifying. 

Wilmington is a small rural town, falling on the lower end of the economic scale.  Because we are isolated,the library plays a vital part in the community.  We offer the usual storytimes and adult programs, but also loan out hotspots and ChromeBooks. We have 45 hotspots and these are almost always checked out; some people are using them for vacations, but by usage it is apparent that others are using them as their primary means of connecting to the Internet. Internet access has been more and more important, but after the Covid-19 broke out, more governmental services went strictly online, making access even more critical – and to many who had not been regular patrons. WPLD is a hub for the community, offering computers, information, tax forms, and a place to come in and chat – even more important when we are trying to stay close and limit outside contact.

Main Street in Wilmington, circa 1900

I am a Chicago native who went to Champaign-Urbana for grad school. I was a scanner for the Internet Archive for several years where I was privileged to handle some incunabula (pre-1500 items). I am the Technical Services Supervisor at Wilmington; primarily I catalog our materials, but I also tend toward Projects, from adding series labels to re-orienting all the calls in the juvenile non-fiction section.  I am currently going through our attic to help determine what we have (it’s a Mystery!). I’m making lists, and hoping to have items to scan which would be available online, in multiple places. I applied for the Community Webs program (with my director’s blessing) because I felt that it’s important for small towns to be represented in the collection of history. Only 20% of the population still lives outside major metro areas, but it is every bit as important to capture that life as it is to retain the history of large cities.

Wilmington Library joined Community Webs in the summer of 2021. After some technical clarifications with the Archive-It staff WLPD was set up. In considering what made Wilmington unique, the first link was to our library and social media pages. Social media has grown in importance in the last twenty years, but it became a vital link during Covid when services were otherwise unavailable. Wilmington Library YouTube videos, how-tos, crafts and storytime, stand to remind us of how we responded and as a continuing reference for parents who can’t get to the library. But since social media, specifically, is known for ‘right now,’ it lacks the kind of reflection over time that we can create through the Community Webs project.

We may be small, but we have a number of historical articles and sites which needed to be brought together. We want to reflect events that have been impactful to our community, from the explosion of the Joliet Armory in the 1940s to the continuing issues with the Wilmington Dam, which has proved dangerous, but has complicated ownership issues. I still have a long way to go; the projects (attic/local history/web archive) are all intertwined. Wilmington has the usual Community Resources and City Government collections in Archive-It. Going forward, we want to continue to develop our Wilmington History collection. We are working on local history and will establish a collection of materials from our attic and public donations. Our local paper has vertical files which could be a goldmine of information – again, on my to-do list.  We will be kicking off an Oral History Project, which will begin with a series of simple gatherings/coffee hours for our seniors, providing a place for them to gather, and a space to share their stories. I am hoping these will be in our Community Webs archive. Who better to speak to where we’ve been and where we are than some of our oldest residents?

Wilmington Dam (present). Photo: T. Dean 4/21/22
[Photo by John Irvine – Chicago Tribune – August 29, 1992]. Shallow appearing dam is still quite hazardous, partially because it doesn’t ‘look’ dangerous – photo long before warning signs went up.

Why is Community Webs important? Because it will help to remember when we cannot keep up with the information overload. Because there is so much happening that we miss a good deal of what is around us – or can’t bear to face it for long. Because so very very much of our lives are now online – and can be erased with a keystroke. Because we are seeing, painfully, that those who do not learn from the past will be/are condemned to re-live it. And, for Wilmington, I think it is important because so many of the voices and sites being captured are from museums, universities and large public libraries. It is important that we remember that we used to be far less urban than we are today. It is important to remember the smaller places, those who are too easily lost in the maelstrom of modern life, because to be forgotten is to be erased.

Library as Laboratory Recap: Analyzing Biodiversity Literature at Scale

At a recent webinar hosted by the Internet Archive, leaders from the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) shared how its massive open access digital collection documenting life on the planet is an invaluable resource of use to scientists and ordinary citizens.

“The BHL is a global consortium of the  leading natural history museums, botanical gardens, and research institutions — big and small— from all over the world. Working together and in partnership with the Internet Archive, these libraries have digitized more than 60 million pages of scientific literature available to the public”, said Chris Freeland, director of Open Libraries and moderator of the event.

Watch session recording:

Established in 2006 with a commitment to inspiring discovery through free access to biodiversity knowledge, BHL has 19 members and 22 affiliates, plus 100 worldwide partners contributing data. The BHL has content dating back nearly 600 years alongside current literature that, when liberated from the print page, holds immense promise for advancing science and solving today’s pressing problems of climate change and the loss of biodiversity.

Martin Kalfatovic, BHL program director and associate director of the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, noted in his presentation that Charles Darwin and colleagues famously said “the cultivation of natural science cannot be efficiently carried on without reference to an extensive library.”

“Today, the Biodiversity Heritage Library is creating this global, accessible open library of literature that will  help scientists, taxonomists, environmentalists—a host of people working with our planet—to actually have ready access to these collections,” Kalfatovic said. BHL’s mission is to improve research methodology by working with its partner libraries and the broader biodiversity and bioinformatics community. Each month, BHL draws about 142,000 visitors and 12 million users overall.

“The outlook for the planet is challenging. By unlocking this historic data [in the Biodiversity Heritage Library], we can find out where we’ve been over time to find out more about where we need to be in the future.”

Martin Kalfatovic, program director, Biodiversity Heritage Library

Most of the BHL’s materials are from collections in the global north, primarily in large, well-funded institutions. Digitizing these collections helps level the playing field, providing researchers in all parts of the world equal access to vital content.

The vast collection includes species descriptions, distribution records, climate records, history of scientific discovery, information on extinct species, and records of scientific distributions of where species live. To date, BHL has made over 176,000 titles and 281,000 volumes available. Through a partnership with the Global Names Architecture project, more than 243 million instances of taxonomic (Latin) names have been found in BHL content.

Kalfatovic underscored the value of BHL content in understanding the environment in the wake of recent troubling news from the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) published by the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change about the impact of the earth’s warming. 

Biodiversity Heritage Library by the numbers.

“The outlook for the planet is challenging,” he said. “By unlocking this historic data, we can find out where we’ve been over time to find out more about where we need to be in the future.”

JJ Dearborn, BHL data manager, discussed how digitization transforms physical books into digital objects that can be shared with “anyone, at any time, anywhere.” She describes the Wikimedia ecosystem as “fertile ground for open access experimentation,” crediting the organization with giving BHL the ability to reach new audiences and transform its data into 5-star linked open data. “Dark data” that is locked up in legacy formats, JP2s, and OCR text are sources of valuable checklist, species occurrence, and event sampling data that the larger biodiversity community can use to improve humanity’s collective ability to monitor biodiversity loss and the destructive impacts of climate change, at scale.  

The majority of the world’s data today is siloed, unstructured, and unused, Dearborn explained. This “dark data” “represents an untapped resource that could really transform human understanding if it could be truly utilized,” she said. “It might represent a gestalt leap for humanity.” 

The event was the fifth in a series of six sessions highlighting how researchers in the humanities use the Internet Archive. The final session of the Library as Laboratory series will be a series of lightning talks on May 11 at 11am PT / 2pm ET—register now!

Helping Ukrainian Scholars, One Book at a Time

The Internet Archive is proud to partner with Better World Books to support Ukrainian students and scholars. With a $1 donation at checkout during your purchase at betterworldbooks.com, you will help provide verifiable information to Ukrainian scholars all over the world through Wikipedia.

Since 2019, the Internet Archive has worked with the Wikipedia community to strengthen citations to published literature. Working in collaboration with Wikipedians and data scientists, Internet Archive has linked hundreds of thousands of citations in Wikipedia to books in our collection, offering Wikipedia editors and readers single-click access to the verifiable facts contained within libraries. 

Recently, our engineers analyzed the citations in the Ukrainian-language Wikipedia, and were able to connect citations to more than 17,000 books that have already been digitized by the Internet Archive, such as the page for Геноміка (English translation: Genomics), which links to a science textbook published in 2002. Through this work, we discovered that there are more than 25,000 additional books that we don’t have in our collection—and that’s where you can help! 

Now through the end of June, when you make a $1 donation at checkout during your purchase at betterworldbooks.com, your donation will go to acquire books that are cited in the Ukrainian-language Wikipedia. Books acquired will be donated to Internet Archive for digitization and preservation. Once digitized, the books will be linked from their citations in Wikipedia, offering readers the ability to check facts in published literature. Books will be available for borrowing by one person at a time at archive.org, and will also be available for scholars to request via interlibrary loan. With your help, we can ensure that Ukrainian scholars and people studying Ukraine have access to authoritative, factual information about Ukrainian history and culture. 

Thank you for making a difference by buying books from Better World Books and helping Ukrainian students and scholars with your donation.