This week, two major library organizations affirmed their commitment to the longstanding and widespread library practice of digitizing physical books they own and lending out secured digital versions. The practice, controlled digital lending (CDL), is the digital equivalent of traditional library lending.
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) joined hundreds of individual libraries and supporters in signing a public position statement in support of controlled digital lending.
ARL and SPARC collectively represent over 300 academic and research libraries in the U.S. and Canada. ARL advocates on behalf of research libraries and home institutions on many issues and its members include government institutions, including the National Library of Medicine and the National Archives, as well as the continent’s largest land grant institutions and Ivy League colleges. SPARC focuses on enabling the open sharing of research outputs and educational materials, arguing that such access democratizes access to information knowledge and increases the return on investment in research and education.
Announcing their support, SPARC said, “CDL plays an important role in many libraries, and has been particularly critical to many academic and research libraries as they work to support students, faculty, and researchers through this pandemic.” SPARC also issued a call to action to others in the library community to add their support.
ARL concurred, “CDL is a practice rooted in the fair use right of the US Copyright Act and recent judicial interpretations of that right. During the COVID-19 pandemic in particular, many academic and research libraries have relied on CDL to ensure academic and research continuity at a time when many physical collections have been inaccessible.”
The Internet Archive’s Open Libraries program is powered by controlled digital lending and we welcome the support of other libraries. As libraries are closed across the globe because of COVID-19, millions of digitized books are still available for free to be borrowed by learn-at-home students and readers.