Advertising powers the Web. What if it just doesn’t work?

On October 14, the Internet Archive presented a book talk with author Tim Hwang, NYT Tech Reporter, Kashmir Hill, and technologist, Desigan Chinniah, discussing Hwang’s new book is “Subprime Attention Crisis.”

Is the Ad-Tech model powering the Internet really just the next financial bubble?

That is the question at the heart of a significant new book by Internet researcher Tim HwangSubprime Attention Crisis: Advertising and the Time Bomb at the Heart of the Internet. If you don’t already know Tim, he’s is a polymath: former Google AI policy wonk, lawyer, polemicist. In other words, just the kind of thinker we think you should know. Watch the video of a virtual book event with Tim here:

Subprime Attention Crisis makes the case that the core advertising model driving Google, Facebook, and many of the most powerful companies on the internet is—at its heart—a multibillion dollar financial bubble. Drawing parallels to the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, Tim shines a spotlight on the lack of transparency, flawed incentives, and outright fraud that keep this machine running.

On October 14, the Internet Archive hosted a talk with the author and New York Times technology reporter Kashmir Hill. Their discussion tackled:

  • Why data-driven, online advertising may be much, much less effective than it looks
  • The long-term impact of the COVID-19 recession on the media and online ads
  • Whether or not the giants of Big Tech are already “too big to fail”

This discussion focused not only on the problems of advertising, but also on the future, and how we might be able to transition to a better, more financially robust internet. Joining the discussion was Desigan Chinniah, who co-leads Grant for the Web—a $100 million fund launched by Coil, Mozilla, and Creative Commons to spur open standards and new economic models for the web beyond advertising.

NOTE: We urge you to purchase a copy of Tim’s new book, Subprime Attention Crisis, via our local bookseller, The Booksmith. The first 50 purchasers will receive an autographed copy.

Library Leaders Forum: how to empower communities affected by COVID-19

This year’s virtual Library Leaders Forum closes on Tuesday, following three weeks of inspiring discussion about the future of libraries in the digital age. The final session will focus on the impact of controlled digital lending on communities, particularly those affected by COVID-19. 

In last week’s session, we heard from librarians on the frontline of the COVID-19 response. Panelists shared how controlled digital lending has empowered libraries to get vital resources to those in need, despite lockdowns. “We were aware of [controlled digital lending] beforehand, but this pandemic has made us acutely aware of the need and opportunity,” said Stanford University’s chief technology strategist Tom Cramer. If you missed it, you can read a detailed recap of the session or watch the full recording

The session demonstrated the power of digital tools for reaching marginalized communities in lockdown and beyond. We were therefore pleased to announce that Internet Archive is joining Project ReShare, a group of organizations developing an open-source resource sharing platform for libraries. Resource sharing, like controlled digital lending, has the power to break down the access barriers associated with commercial platforms. 

The next session will focus on the impact that controlled digital lending is having on libraries and the communities they serve. Internet Archive founder and digital librarian Brewster Kahle will present the Internet Archive Hero Award to Michelle Wu, the visionary behind the practice. We’ll learn what inspired Michelle and how her work has empowered libraries during the current pandemic. There’s still time to register for free

We also have a very special event taking place during the session to which everyone is invited. Join us for the grand reopening of Marygrove College Library and find out how digitization saved a valuable archive from being split up and lost. The event will help place the Forum’s discussions in a real-world context by showing the impact of controlled digital lending on one African American community. It will also explore the power of digitization for preserving key elements of our cultural heritage. Registration is free for this special event.

The Library Leaders Forum may be drawing to a close, but the library community can stay connected through the #EmpoweringLibraries campaign. The campaign builds on the work of the Forum by raising awareness of the positive impact of controlled digital lending. We hope the community will unite to protect this key library practice and make knowledge accessible for all.

Library Leaders Forum Highlights Community of Practice Supporting Controlled Digital Lending

For many librarians, the global pandemic has pushed Controlled Digital Lending from sounding like a promising idea to becoming an important way of serving their patrons. Unable to physically check out books, a growing number of institutions have embraced CDL as a safe way to connect their readers with needed materials.

Librarians, educators, and technologists discussed the value and challenge of CDL for their communities at the second session of the 2020 Library Leaders Forum held online October 13. Video of the full session is now available.

“The Internet Archive has been operating a Controlled Digital Lending environment for more than nine years and we now have more than 80 libraries along with us,” said Chris Freeland, director of Open Libraries, who moderated the panel. “We are really thrilled. There is strength in community.”

With limited access to their collections during COVID-19, librarians on the frontlines shared their frustration getting digital materials to remote learners. Many publishers were willing to give free access to their content in the spring, but that didn’t last, said Tucker Taylor, head of circulation at University of South Carolina.

“We have a large textbook collection that we spent a lot of student tuition money and our tax dollars on. We wanted to continue to provide access to that,” said Taylor, noting that vendors refused to sell the library ebooks.

The library began to build its own ebook platform and ended up partnering with HathiTrust, a membership-based digital library. It provided emergency access to books the library owned in print — one book in, one book out, said Taylor.

“We are team players. We wanted to do the right thing,” said Taylor of the controlled lending practice — a less than perfect solution, but a way to get the content the library owns in the hands of students in need. “I’m a librarian. I want to check things in and out. So, it feels reasonable to me that I should be able to do online checkout.”

At Stanford University, Tom Cramer, chief technology strategist, assistant university librarian and director of digital library system and services, said the campus closure in March left students and researchers without access to millions of books in the library stacks.

“That’s why we are in Controlled Digital Lending. We were aware of it beforehand, but this pandemic has made us acutely aware of the need and opportunity,” said Cramer, who suggested libraries have been too conservative about copyright law and the exceptions it provides libraries to better serve their patrons.

The panelists also mentioned how CDL can allow libraries to offer books that are out of print to the public, access to readers with disabilities and fragile collections that cannot circulate. It’s also an environmentally friendly practice that keeps items from having to be physically shipped for interlibrary loans. 

With the current system, the needs of patrons are not being met and libraries should share resources to develop scalable solutions, said Jill Morris, executive director of Pennsylvania Academic Library Consortium, Inc. She heads the steering committee for Project ReShare (which the Internet Archive recently joined) that is working on innovative open source tools for libraries.  

Another member of the project, Sebastian Hammer, co-founder and president of Index Data, spoke on the panel about the promise of technology in helping libraries improve services to patrons. Cramer of Stanford suggested interoperability was a high priority in creating a robust system for the future and the group agreed that authors and publishers should also be part of the conversation.

Collaboration is key, said Lisa Petrides, founder and chief executive officer of the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education.

“We are trying to change how a system works,” she says, which involves working across all stakeholder groups and changing policy. “It’s about access and equity at its core.”

Internet Archive Joins Project ReShare


The Internet Archive is the newest library to join Project ReShare, a group of organizations coming together to develop an open source resource sharing platform for libraries.

“Internet Archive is pleased to partner with Project ReShare and its member libraries and consortia to build the next generation of library resource sharing tools,” says Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive. “We believe in community-developed software and support library efforts to build systems that address the ever-present challenges of connecting readers and learners with books.”

The project was formed in 2018 in response to concern about market consolidation and the pace of innovation among vendors serving libraries. Rather than rely solely on commercial providers, members wanted to be able to set their own priorities.

“We felt we needed to introduce some additional alternatives,” says Jill Morris, chair of the Project ReShare steering committee and executive director of the Pennsylvania Academic Library Consortium Inc. (PALCI). “Libraries need to be able to share ideas and resources with each other to best support their patron bases.”

As a Project ReShare member, the Internet Archive will have a voice in the project’s direction as it works directly with libraries, consortia, and other organizations to improve the value and impact of resource sharing networks and the tools used to support them.

“We are thrilled to have the Internet Archive share their expertise and contribute to the vision of ReShare,” says Morris.

The project is resulting in productive competition and a new suite of options unavailable in the past.  Creating space to devise technology and system agnostic approaches, Project ReShare enables libraries to make decisions in the best interest of good patron service rather than forced into an ecosystem with limited choice, adds Morris.  

“From my own experience working in an academic library, managing a print collection is a major undertaking,” says Chris Freeland, director of Open Libraries at the Internet Archive. “We’re excited to join Project ReShare and the community that is developing new ways of connecting library patrons to the resources they need.”

Other ReShare members include library consortia (ConnectNY, GWLA, MCLS, PALCI, TAL, and TRLN), commercial entities (Knowledge Integration and Index Data) and university libraries (Grand Valley State University, Louisiana State University, Michigan State, Millersville University, Texas A&M, University of Alabama, and University of Chicago).

Library Leaders Forum: Strengthening the Community of Practice Around Controlled Digital Lending

This year’s virtual Library Leaders Forum focuses on empowering libraries and the communities they serve through digital lending. The first session sparked important discussions around the role of libraries in providing free and equal access to knowledge in a democratic society. 

Moderator and Internet Archive policy counsel Lila Bailey summed up the urgency and relevance of the issue: “Our country is struggling to find a common set of facts. The truth often lives behind paywalls while misinformation and disinformation go viral. Equal access to information is foundational to our democratic society and it’s part of why libraries exist.” Panelists discussed how digital lending can act as a key tool in providing equal access to information, the threats it is currently facing from certain publishing practices, and potential solutions such as copyright law reform and increased arts funding. You can read a recap of the discussion or watch the full recording

In addition to the panel discussion, the session involved two exciting announcements. First, the power of digitization for democratizing access to important texts was demonstrated with the digital release to the public of a rare oration by Frederik Douglass, an influential text in the history of anti-slavery movements. Second, we were pleased to announce that Michelle Wu will receive the Internet Archive Hero Award on October 20 for her pioneering work on controlled digital lending. The practice has been key in the response of libraries to Covid-19 lockdowns, enabling them to continue providing digital access to learning throughout the pandemic for those who need it most. 

Our next session on October 13 will build on these announcements and the first session’s discussion points by exploring the community of practice that has emerged around controlled digital lending. We’ll hear from librarians, educators, and technologists who are developing next-generation library tools that incorporate and build upon the practice. We’ll also learn more about how Internet Archive’s controlled digital lending environment works in practice, with demonstrations from our engineering team. 

The session will provide useful knowledge-sharing for library practitioners who wish to expand their digital practices, and look to the future of controlled digital lending as a crucial and evolving tool in a democratic society. The focus will be on maintaining and expanding our community of practice, a key resource in developing digital tools that allow us to better serve the public. A strong community is more important now than ever as digital lending practices are increasingly under threat and the age-old role of libraries in society is challenged in a new law suit. There’s still time to register for the session for free; you can also follow us on Twitter for live updates. 

We’re looking forward to hearing more from the community of practitioners who are dedicated to developing a digital library landscape that supports and furthers democracy, equality and representation. Given the urgency of the issues discussed and the current threat to controlled digital lending, it’s important that the discussion leads to action. To this end, the Forum marks the beginning of the #EmpoweringLibraries campaign, an opportunity for us all to come together to keep knowledge accessible for everyone. We hope to see many of you at Tuesday’s session to further discuss the importance of controlled digital lending for a functioning democracy where knowledge does not live behind paywalls.

Library Leaders Forum Kicks off with Policy Discussion: Ways to Better Serve the Public

COVID-19 has made it clear that digital access to books and other library materials is more important than ever. Yet, the information ecosystem is not working as well as it should.

These issues and more were explored during the Policy session of the Library Leaders Forum, a three-week series focused on empowering libraries and the communities they serve through digital lending.  In addition to the panel discussion, special announcements were made about the donation and digitization of a rare Frederick Douglass pamphlet, and that Michelle Wu will receive the Internet Archive Hero Award at the final session of the Library Leaders Forum on October 20.

A captioned video of the entire session is now online and available for all to view.

Panel discussion

For the Policy session panel, librarians, authors, publishers, and advocates came together to discuss the role libraries should play in improving the digital landscape for the communities they serve. Potential policy solutions, such as copyright and labor law reforms, as well as collective action and boycotts to pressure publishers were discussed.

“Our country is struggling to find a common set of facts. The truth often lives behind paywalls while misinformation and disinformation go viral,” said Lila Bailey, policy counsel with the Internet Archive, moderating the discussion. “Equal access to information is foundational to our democratic society and it’s part of why libraries exist.”

Digital materials hold the promise for expanded access, but the outcome is not guaranteed. As publishers refuse to sell e-books, but rather license them, libraries are responding with a variety of strategies including Controlled Digital Lending – the digital equivalent of traditional lending. 

As libraries evolve with the changing landscape, leaders need tools to change for the better. Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, said the balance of power is up for grabs and publishers are pushing for control.

“We need librarians to be trained to push back,” Brewster said. “We are fighters for our patrons. We should stand by libraries and help empower them.”

Carmi Parker, librarian for the Whatcom County Library System in Washington state, said the average price of e-book licensing more than tripled over the past decade and libraries are forced to repurchase more frequently. When McMillan recently limited libraries to buying one e-book in the first eight weeks after publication (instead of dozens of copies of best sellers), Parker’s library consortium launched a boycott. After 1,200 other public libraries joined the protest, the publisher bowed to the pressure and dropped the practice.

“The concern here is this pattern of increasing prices and increasingly limited licenses that impede our ability to offer books to our patrons,” Parker says. “We think that we sent the message that embargoes are not OK, but we still have the crippling prices and limitations. We need to use print lending as a model for how these e-books should work. That’s why I’m interested in Controlled Digital Lending because that’s exactly what it does.”

Kyle K. Courtney, copyright advisor & program advisor at Harvard University, said CDL is a complementary model that helps libraries preserve their mission of long-term preservation and access.

“CDL has emerged as one of several answers to deal with these access issues now,” Courtney says. “CDL helps fill this digital void by harnessing the library’s special role in copyright to broaden digital access. We are craving this kind of digital access.”

Some panelists underscored it was important to embrace new forms of dissemination, but that CDL was an incomplete solution in need of refinement.

Many authors are coming around to the idea that sharing their works openly can only help them gain readers, said Dean Smith, director of Duke University Press.

“We are focused on smart and sustainable Open Access,” says Smith, who adds that OA usage has made his press more relevant. CDL is especially useful for titles that are out of print to bring scholarship that is buried back into circulation, he said. Smith suggested a possible “buy button” be added to books offered on Internet Archive as a way to entice more participation in CDL.

There should be several ways for writers to market and sell their books beyond the large publishers and online outlets, according to Cory Doctorow, a science fiction author, activist and journalist, and special advisor to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He is a supporter of the Internet Archive and believes libraries should be able to scan books for CDL.

Among Doctorow’s policy wish list to improve digital access: reform the copyright law, change labor laws for writers to form strong unions, subject mergers to strict scrutiny, force breakups of monopolistic firms in publishing, distribution and retail, increase arts funding, and create a Library of Congress rights database.

Meredith Rose, senior policy counsel for Public Knowledge, said that the pandemic might be moving public opinion on some of these issues and lead lawmakers to consider new measures. CDL could be pitched as a solution to help address distance learning, public health, misinformation, disability rights and other relevant concerns.

Looking ahead

Next week’s session of the Library Leaders Forum will focus on the community of practice that has developed around Controlled Digital Lending, and the panel discussion will bring together the librarians, technologists and educators who are working together to develop the next generation of library tools that incorporate & build upon Controlled Digital Lending. Registration is free and available now. 

On Bookstores, Libraries & Archives in the Digital Age

The following was a guest post by Brewster Kahle in Against The Grain (ATG). See the original article from September 28, 2020 on the ATG website here.

Back in 2006,  I was honored to give a keynote at the meeting of the Society of American Archivists, when the president of the Society presented me with a framed blown-up letter “S.”  This was an inside joke about the Internet Archive being named in the singular, Archive, rather than the plural Archives. Of course, he was right, as I should have known all along. The Internet Archive had long since grown out of being an “archive of the Internet”—a singular collection, say of web pages—to being “archives on the Internet,” plural.  My evolving understanding of these different names might help focus a discussion that has become blurry in our digital times: the difference between the roles of publishers, bookstores, libraries, archives, and museums. These organizations and institutions have evolved with different success criteria, not just because of the shifting physical manifestation of knowledge over time, but because of the different roles each group plays in a functioning society. For the moment, let’s take the concepts of Library and Archive.

The traditional definition of a library is that it is made up of published materials, while an archive is made up of unpublished materials. Archives play an important function that must be maintained—we give frightfully little attention to collections of unpublished works in the digital age. Think of all the drafts of books that have disappeared once we started to write with word processors and kept the files on fragile computer floppies and disks. Think of all the videotapes of lectures that are thrown out or were never recorded in the first place. 

Bookstores: The Thrill of the Hunt

Let’s try another approach to understanding distinctions between bookstores, libraries and archives. When I was in my 20’s living in Boston—before Amazon.com and before the World Wide Web (but during the early Internet)—new and used bookstores were everywhere. I thought of them as catering to the specialized interests of their customers: small, selective, and only offering books that might sell and be taken away, with enough profit margin to keep the store in business. I loved them. I especially liked the used bookstore owners—they could peer into my soul (and into my wallet!) to find the right book for me. The most enjoyable aspect of the bookstore was the hunt—I arrived with a tiny sheet of paper in my wallet with a list of the books I wanted, would bring it out and ask the used bookstore owners if I might go home with a bargain. I rarely had the money to buy new books for myself, but I would give new books as gifts. While I knew it was okay to stay for awhile in the bookstore just reading, I always knew the game.

Libraries: Offering Conversations not Answers

The libraries that I used in Boston—MIT Libraries, Harvard Libraries, the Boston Public Library—were very different. I knew of the private Boston Athenæum but I was not a member, so I could not enter. Libraries for me seemed infinite, but still tailored to individual interests. They had what was needed for you to explore and if they did not have it, the reference librarian would proudly proclaim: “We can get it for you!” I loved interlibrary loans—not so much in practice, because it was slow, but because they gave you a glimpse of a network of institutions sharing what they treasured with anyone curious enough to want to know more. It was a dream straight out of Borges’ imagination (if you have not read Borges’ short stories, they are not to be missed, and they are short. I recommend you write them on the little slip of paper you keep in your wallet.) I couldn’t afford to own many of the books I wanted, so it turned off that acquisitive impulse in me. But the libraries allowed me to read anything, old and new. I found I consumed library books very differently. I rarely even brought a book from the shelf to a table; I would stand, browse, read, learn and search in the aisles. Dipping in here and there. The card catalog got me to the right section and from there I learned as I explored. 

Libraries were there to spark my own ideas. The library did not set out to tell a story as a museum would. It was for me to find stories, to create connections, have my own ideas by putting things together. I would come to the library with a question and end up with ideas.  Rarely were these facts or statistics—but rather new points of view. Old books, historical newspapers, even the collection of reference books all illustrated points of view that were important to the times and subject matter. I was able to learn from others who may have been far away or long deceased. Libraries presented me with a conversation, not an answer. Good libraries cause conversations in your head with many writers. These writers, those librarians, challenged me to be different, to be better. 

Staying for hours in a library was not an annoyance for the librarians—it was the point. Yes, you could check books out of the library, and I would, but mostly I did my work in the library—a few pages here, a few pages there—a stack of books in a carrel with index cards tucked into them and with lots of handwritten notes (uh, no laptops yet).

But libraries were still specialized. To learn about draft resisters during the Vietnam War, I needed access to a law library. MIT did not have a law collection and this was before Lexis/Nexis and Westlaw. I needed to get to the volumes of case law of the United States.  Harvard, up the road, had one of the great law libraries, but as an MIT student, I could not get in. My MIT professor lent me his ID that fortunately did not include a photo, so I could sneak in with that. I spent hours in the basement of Harvard’s Law Library reading about the cases of conscientious objectors and others. 

But why was this library of law books not available to everyone? It stung me. It did not seem right. 

A few years later I would apply to library school at Simmons College to figure out how to build a digital library system that would be closer to the carved words over the Boston Public Library’s door in Copley Square:  “Free to All.”  

Archives: A Wonderful Place for Singular Obsessions

When I quizzed the archivist at MIT, she explained what she did and how the MIT Archives worked. I loved the idea, but did not spend any time there—it was not organized for the busy undergraduate. The MIT Library was organized for easy access; the MIT Archives included complete collections of papers, notes, ephemera from others, often professors. It struck me that the archives were collections of collections. Each collection faithfully preserved and annotated.  I think of them as having advertisements on them, beckoning the researcher who wants to dive into the materials in the archive and the mindset of the collector.

So in this formulation, an archive is a collection, archives are collections of collections.  Archivists are presented with collections, usually donations, but sometimes there is some money involved to preserve and catalog another’s life work. Personally, I appreciate almost any evidence of obsession—it can drive toward singular accomplishments. Archives often reveal such singular obsessions. But not all collections are archived, as it is an expensive process.

The cost of archiving collections is changing, especially with digital materials, as is cataloging and searching those collections. But it is still expensive. When the Internet Archive takes on a physical collection, say of records, or old repair manuals, or materials from an art group, we have to weigh the costs and the potential benefits to researchers in the future. 

Archives take the long view. One hundred years from now is not an endpoint, it may be the first time a collection really comes back to light.

Digital Libraries: A Memex Dream, a Global Brain

So when I helped start the Internet Archive, we wanted to build a digital library—a “complete enough” collection, and “organized enough” that everything would be there and findable. A Universal Library. A Library of Alexandria for the digital age. Fulfilling the memex dream of Vanevar Bush (do read “As We May Think“), of Ted Nelson‘s Xanadu, of Tim Berners-Lee‘s World Wide Web, of Danny Hillis‘ Thinking Machine, Raj Reddy’s Universal Access to All Knowledge, and Peter Russell’s Global Brain.

Could we be smarter by having people, the library, networks, and computers all work together?  That is the dream I signed on to.

I dreamed of starting with a collection—an Archive, an Internet Archive. This grew to be  a collection of collections: Archives. Then a critical mass of knowledge complete enough to inform citizens worldwide: a Digital Library. A library accessible by anyone connected to the Internet, “Free to All.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brewster Kahle, Founder & Digital Librarian, Internet Archive

A passionate advocate for public Internet access and a successful entrepreneur, Brewster Kahle has spent his career intent on a singular focus: providing Universal Access to All Knowledge. He is the founder and Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive, one of the largest digital libraries in the world, which serves more than a million patrons each day. Creator of the Wayback Machine and lending millions of digitized books, the Internet Archive works with more than 800 library and university partners to create a free digital library, accessible to all.

Soon after graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he studied artificial intelligence, Kahle helped found the company Thinking Machines, a parallel supercomputer maker. He is an Internet pioneer, creating the Internet’s first publishing system called Wide Area Information Server (WAIS). In 1996, Kahle co-founded Alexa Internet, with technology that helps catalog the Web, selling it to Amazon.com in 1999.  Elected to the Internet Hall of Fame, Kahle is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and holds honorary library doctorates from Simmons College and University of Alberta.

Controlled Digital Lending Visionary Michelle Wu to Receive Internet Archive Hero Award

At today’s Library Leaders Forum, Internet Archive founder and digital librarian Brewster Kahle announced that Michelle Wu will receive the 2020 Internet Archive Hero Award.  The annual award recognizes those who have exhibited leadership in making information available for digital learners all over the world. Past recipients have included Phillips Academy, the Biodiversity Heritage Library, and the Grateful Dead

“Michelle Wu was ahead of her time in understanding the transition to the digital era and brought library lending into our new landscape,” said Kahle. “Not only did Michelle see a problem coming, she did something about it.”

Pamela Samuelson, the Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law and Information at the University of California, Berkeley, agrees that Wu’s scholarship and contributions to the field have been important. Said Samuelson, “Michelle’s articles explaining the concept have been very useful for students to have not just the reader’s perspective, or law student’s perspective, but how librarians are really taking the challenge of the digital age.” 

Wu will receive the award and present an overview of her work during the final Library Leaders Forum session on October 20 at 10am PDT. Registration is free for the virtual event.

MEDIA: photo and biographical sketch available via georgetown.edu.

Rare Oration by Frederick Douglass Now Available Online

On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass gave a speech in Rochester, New York, in which he called out the injustice in the Declaration of Independence for people of color. “This Fourth of July is for yours, but not for mine,” he said. “You may rejoice, I must mourn.”

Douglass’s oration was then printed and distributed, where it has become an important part of anti-slavery and abolitionist collections ever since. One of those copies made its way to Better World Books, which received a first-edition pamphlet with Douglass’s famous remarks, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” from the Library at Hartford Seminary. Instead of selling the artifact, the socially conscious online book seller elected to donate the rare print copy to the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore to be housed in the special collections of its African American Department.

Prior to gifting the historic item to Pratt, Better World Books partnered with the Internet Archive to digitize and preserve the historic pamphlet for students, readers, scholars, and all people around the world to access. The text is now freely available online to all at https://archive.org/details/orationdelivered00fred/.

The importance of digital access to library materials has been demonstrated during library and school closures due to COVID-19. Said Brewster Kahle, founder and digital librarian at the Internet Archive, “A lot of our libraries are either distant or difficult to get to, so we’re turning more and more to our screens to get the resources we have from our libraries.” Douglass’s oration is an important contribution to that online collection.

“At Better World Books, we believe in the power of knowledge,” said Dustin Holland, president and CEO of the company.  “Our library clients entrust us to maximize the value of each and every book we process.  Douglass’s famous speech deserves to be accessible and seen by everyone, so we were compelled to serve the greater good by bringing two great library institutions together to serve this purpose.”

Heidi Daniel, president and chief executive officer of Pratt, said the library welcomed the donation of the rebound pamphlet, which would be made available to patrons in person and throughout the region because of Pratt’s designation as a state library resource center.  At the entrance of the Pratt library is a quote attributed to Douglass: “Once you learn to read, you are truly free.” 

Douglass, an outspoken abolitionist who escaped slavery, was from the Maryland Eastern Shore.  “He has a strong legacy in Maryland that is well studied and well researched,” says Daniel. “This [Douglass] Oration will be right at home here in our African American Department.”