Being able to lend an array of materials is fundamental to what public libraries do and Controlled Digital Lending–the digital equivalent of traditional library lending– is another tool for libraries to fulfill that mission, according to John Chrastka, executive director of EveryLibrary, a national organization dedicated to building voter support for libraries.
“There are numerous marooned assets within library collections. From 1924 to early the 2000s, there is content that is relevant to certain lines of inquiries or communities, yet it is trapped on paper,” said Chrastka, an early endorser of CDL. “Liberating it into an environment where it could be shared to one user at a time allows those marooned assets to be put back to work. So much public money has been spent over the years acquiring material that is now essentially isolated and cut off from actual use.”
“CDL is a way to ensure that books purchased with public dollars are used in the way they were intended to further education, enjoyment and entertainment,” said Chrastka. Technology has advanced in a way that can practically expand access and renew productivity of older titles to better serve the public. It moves the issue of access beyond location.
EveryLibrary is promoting the value of CDL on many fronts, including how it can open up materials to special populations. For example, there is a collection of oral histories from early Czech immigrants to the United States in a suburban Chicago library. It used to be that many descendants lived nearby and could walk to the library to look up those materials, but they have since moved. While the materials are physically stuck in Illinois, families and scholars elsewhere may be interested if only they had digital access, noted Chrastka.
CDL can also unlock commercial historical documents from the 1920s to the dawn of the computer age. Hidden in the information announcements of businesses may be solutions to problems of today – products that could be useful in future research and development for new companies.
Added Chrastka: “[CDL] is not something that is aspirational. This is about access. It is a core competency of libraries they should be exercising.”
Anyone interested in learning about what was taught in Alberta schools in the past century used to go to the basement of the H. T. Coutts Education and Kinesiology and Physical Education Library at the University of Alberta. There, users would ask to be let into a locked room to view the historical curriculum collection.
Now, many of the historic textbooks are online and available through Controlled Digital Lending, the digital equivalent of a traditional library lending. It’s making for a new chapter in educational research at the urban university, which has about 40,000 students.
“It’s important for me to trace ideas in curriculum over time,” said Cathryn van Kessel, Assistant Professor of Education who is studying feminist issues in curriculum documents and textbooks. “The digitized collection allows researchers to shave countless hours off of our data collection. Being able to access electronic copies with searchable text is invaluable.”
CDL is also useful for the growing number of students taking online classes at the university and researchers who live outside of Edmonton or in other provinces, said Kim Frail, Public Services Librarian at the H.T. Coutts Library on campus.
The University of Alberta Libraries is Canada’s second-largest research library containing more than 5.2 million titles, 7.5 million volumes, 1.3 million e-books and 1,100 databases. They were also the first to adopt CDL in Canada.
The education library received a bequest from estate from Marie Wiedrick, wife of a former faculty member, Laurence Wiedrick, that has been used to fund the digitization project . With the help of the Internet Archives, which set up a scanning facility on campus, the university is more than halfway through digitizing approximately 6000 books that were used in Alberta schools from 1885 to 1985.
Many of the books in the Wiedrick Collection are becoming fragile and deteriorating as they were physically checked out. CDL provides an alternative format that allows the originals to be preserved.
“We think it’s a great legacy for the [Wiedrick] family because it allows broader access to the collection,” said Frail, who works with education researchers at the library that functions as a quasi-academic and public library used by the broader community. In one education course, students examine the representation of Indigenous people over time in historical textbooks. In graduate-level courses that focus on the history of curriculum, students select a certain 10-year period to study how the teaching of certain subjects has changed. Having digital content makes it easier for students to access the materials, especially with regards to curriculum documents or “Programs of Study” from the early 1900s when all the subjects were contained in one book, noted Frail.
Recently, an Alberta researcher received a large grant to work in collaboration with scholars at 17 universities around Canada to examine how history has been taught in the schools over time. Online access to the Wiedrick Collection means that researchers can tap into textbooks in Alberta from any location.
“As we move forward in education, it’s interesting to know where there were gaps – what things were and weren’t being taught,” said Frail.
It’s a particularly useful resource, as well, since librarians have compiled a bibliography that traces what books were used when and for what subject, Frail added. Digitizing the older works enables researchers to conveniently search topics electronically with key words.
“We are hearing great feedback,” said Frail. “It has opened up a whole new realm of research and enabled comparisons over time on a different scale.”
Dean Bartoli Smith’s book of poetry about growing up in Baltimore came out in 2000. American Boy was long past its sales life until it was resurrected by being digitized by the Internet Archive and made available through one-at-a-time digital lending (a model known as Controlled Digital Lending).
“It’s uniquely personal to me because some of the poems deal with my parents’ divorce at the age of seven,” says Smith of the 68-page collection of poems. “My mother became a family law attorney and would give my book to clients who were dealing with custody situations. She passed away in January and as a tribute to her, I wanted there to be free access to that book.”
The poems reflect Smith’s journey to adulthood and issues of the day, such as Vietnam and the plight of Native Americans. It is geared for readers 10 and up. Initially, about 1,000 copies were printed by Washington Writers Publishing House and now the book is available by print on demand.
“I think there is a big need to be able to provide access to these books that are out of print,” said Smith, who is director of the Duke University Press and a 1989 graduate of the Masters of Fine Arts program at Columbia University, “I didn’t go about writing as a way to make a living. Poets are writing poetry to make sense of the world and to share. If someone can benefit from something that I’ve written, then all the more power.”
Smith also wrote Never Easy, Never Pretty: A Fan, A City, A Championship Season, a nonfiction trade book about the Baltimore Ravens 2012 Super Bowl season published by Temple University Press in 2013. Each chapter starts with a line of poetry about football from an established poet. While still in print, Smith said he may eventually explore having that title digitized by the Internet Archive.
By continuing to find new opportunities to make older books, often lost or just inaccessible to the public, available online, Boston Public Library is sparking new enthusiasm among the reading public.
“It’s like a giant treasure hunt for book lovers that just keeps renewing itself,” said BPL President David Leonard.
As one of the nation’s oldest and first municipally funded public libraries in the United States, the Boston Public Library (BPL) holds an estimated 23 million items in its collection. It is one of the three largest in the country along with the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library.
“Libraries that are thriving the most are the ones that are reinventing themselves, responding to new demand and new modes of access, simultaneously keeping one foot in traditional services and engaging with the public in new ways,” said Leonard “and that goes for our physical spaces and for our collections.”
BPL has long been a leader in the digitization and scanning of materials and was the first library to partner with the Internet Archive to pilot access via Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) services in 2011. CDL is the online or digital equivalent of traditional library lending – ‘one copy owned, one copy lent’.
The CDL pilot began in Boston as a way of both preserving and giving access to family genealogies and historical cookbooks, and materials that were stored deep in the stacks and rarely circulated. The first pilot was a success and BPL is moving to its next pilot now offering ‘one patron, one copy at-a-time’ access to scanned copies of certain older printed books from the 50,000 historic children’s books in the Alice Jordan Collection, which is housed in closed stacks and unavailable to the public in physical form. A subset of these works are now available at the Internet Archive via CDL, making them available to patrons for the first time, limited to where the BPL’s catalog overlaps with the Internet Archives’ already scanned materials.
BPL also has a strong relationship with Boston-based publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which has donated a physical copy of every book it has produced since the late 1800s to the Library. While nearly 90 percent of those titles are not in print today, the publisher has agreed to let the library make available a scanned copy of each item in the historical archive through the CDL program, reactivating the collection.
With so many lost titles becoming available again, it has become easier for patrons to discover and access an even broader array of books – in some cases, not only giving renewed exposure to a title that has been out of print, but also generating new revenue streams for publishers. The BPL cites at least one example from its early pilot where an author went ahead with a second printing of a book which had been out of print and was rediscovered through the CDL program.
“We hope as more institutions understand the value, we will be able to bring more content back,” Leonard said. “As well as delivering on our mission of increased public access, this program has the effect of being a real marketing channel for both authors and publishers, something libraries have long been a champion for. It provides a particularly useful channel for people to demonstrate their interest in older works, and can revive their commercial value.”
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Press was the first university press to sign an agreement with the Internet Archive to scan older print books for which it had no digital copies to make them available for one-at-a-time lending, a model known as Controlled Digital Lending.
Amy Brand, Director of MIT Press
“These are works that are available through Controlled Digital Lending, but where the list of what’s available is curated by us rather than by libraries,” said Amy Brand, director of the MIT Press. “We are a mission-driven publisher and we have been very proactive in the open access space for a long time. It’s been a top priority to me to digitize everything I could and make as many of our scholarly monographs open as possible.”
That said, there are concerns that the digitize-and-lend will hurt book sales and presses’ own efforts to make digital books available to libraries. The ebooks of concern are newer titles and trade books, noted Brand, while the works that the MIT Press is contributing to the CDL program are typically older back-list titles that were never digitized and that the Press is not currently selling, including works that are out of print entirely.
“We also give the author an opt-out courtesy notice. We think they should be comfortable with the works being made openly available in this way,” Brand said, noting that MIT Press’s approach is always author driven.
After MIT announced its relationship with Internet Archive, the Press received positive news coverage and has been actively helping to involve other university presses. About a dozen others including Cornell University Press and the University of Colorado Press, have come on board with digitizing titles.
“I would like to see scholarly work that has not previously been digitized made available,” Brand said. “I believe strongly that scientific and scholarly knowledge should be shared as broadly as possible. I think university presses have a big role to play. The university press community is much more likely to be supportive of an approach to Controlled Digital Lending that includes, rather than excludes, publisher curation of works that libraries digitize and lend, in order to protect the ability of mission-driven presses to sustain themselves and keep publishing high-quality scholarship.”
Michelle Wu began working at the University of Houston Law Library in the wake of flooding from Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. Some parts of the city had 14 feet of water and the library took in at least 8 feet. Law books on the lower level were underwater and the lingering humidity produced mold that destroyed much of the remaining collection.
“I wanted to create a model that would allow libraries to be able to preserve collections while respecting copyright in a world where natural disasters are a growing threat,” said Wu, now associate dean for library services and professor of law at the Georgetown Law Library in Washington, D.C. “Digitizing a collection and storing it under existing standards ensures that there is always a backed-up copy somewhere. During and after any disaster, the user would never lose access and the government would not have to reinvest to rebuild collections.” Controlled Digital Lending–the digital equivalent of traditional library lending–is a model that achieves these purposes.
For libraries with fewer resources, CDL can also be a tool to maximize public dollars and improve access. Once a library determines that its community no longer has a need for a certain CDL book (or as many copies as owned), the extra copies can be shared with libraries that never had access and would never have access without collaborative efforts.
“It’s a way of wealth sharing without much cost to communities,” Wu said. “Storage, digitization, and system costs would have already been budgeted by the lending library, CDL requires no shipping costs to be paid by either party, and the lending library’s community won’t feel the loss of copies as local need has decreased.”
“It’s a way to build a more robust collection for all of us to use. It helps the community and society at large in the long term,” said Wu. “That’s not something any of us can do alone. The only way we will do it is if we do it together.”
This summer, representatives from the Internet Archive joined librarians and advocates in Washington D.C., to talk with policymakers about how Controlled Digital Lending, or CDL, helps their communities. The resounding response from Congressional offices was that CDL “just makes sense” and they want to support libraries that embrace technology to fulfill their public service missions.
As technology advances, so too does the ability to lend books efficiently, easily, and broadly, specifically with CDL. With CDL, a library digitizes a book it owns and lends out one secured digital version to one user at a time. It is the digital equivalent of traditional lending. CDL is not intended to replace or circumvent a library’s existing e-book subscriptions but instead serves as a powerful tool for bridging the gap between print and electronic resources for readers and researchers alike.
Through powerful stories, librarians explained that CDL is benefiting specific communities by:
Providing access to rural patrons who find it challenging to physically check out a book;
Protecting materials from damage in natural disasters from fire to floods;
Saving the cost of transporting books to other branches to be loaned;
Allowing access to rare, fragile books or those out of print and not in circulation;
Preserving vulnerable cultural heritage materials for indigenous people;
Supplementing materials at K-12 and university libraries that are suffering budget cuts;
Providing historical context and fighting misinformation online; and
Increasing access for people with disabilities, the elderly and students in off hours.
The concluding message to Congress was that libraries are using CDL today and communities and librarians love it. We were told that Congress wants to hear more. To tell your story of how CDL has helped your community (e.g., did you find the genealogy you were looking for or the book you needed for a school project?) and why you love CDL, leave a comment below or contact lila at archive dot org.
The United Kingdom has proposed a broad new regulatory framework for dealing with harmful content online in its Online Harms White Paper. The Internet Archive is concerned that the new framework could have problematic unintended consequences for digital libraries.
Below is our full response:
The Internet Archive, a US-based 501(c)(3) non-profit, is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, people with print-disabilities, and the general public. Our mission is to provide Universal Access to All Knowledge.
We appreciate the opportunity to weigh in on the important question of how to manage harmful content online. We believe the web has been an amazing boon to society by democratizing access to knowledge and culture, but we recognize some harms are very real. We therefore urge the government to proceed carefully with regulation.
Our response deals with two aspects of the UK government’s plans for regulating online harms: (1) the online services considered within the scope of the regulatory framework and (2) a suggested approach to accountability and transparency.
Nonprofit Libraries Should Not Be Within the Scope of the Regulatory Framework
Section 4 of the Online Harms White Paper describes the scope of the regulatory framework as applying to “companies that provide services or tools that allow, enable or facilitate users to share or discover user-generated content” including “non-profit organisations.” This scope is overly broad and would sweep in non-profit digital libraries and archives.
Historically, libraries and archives have not been regulated under the same rules as for-profit media organizations. For good reason–libraries have a fundamentally different role in society from commercial media companies. Libraries seek to fulfill a range of vital public interest goals: ensuring widespread access to knowledge, promoting literacy and learning, ensuring equity of access, and stewarding their communities’ cultural and literary heritage. Increasingly, knowledge and cultural heritage is created and shared online. In response, libraries are also moving online. This fact should not subject them to the same rules and burdens as for-profit media and social media companies.
Although libraries are moving online, their fundamental role in society remains the same. Libraries have always supported the individual’s right to be informed, to receive accurate and truthful information, as well as to seek, receive and impart ideas of all kinds–including dangerous or unpopular ones. Libraries also support literacy and help individuals learn to assess the veracity of information in front of them. In our current digital information ecosystem, filled with deception and misinformation, libraries play an important role in empowering an informed citizenry. A vague “duty of care” standard could stifle libraries from achieving their vital public service mission. For these reasons, we believe libraries and archives should be clearly excepted from the regulatory framework set forth in the White Paper.
The UK Government Should Support Transparency and Accountability via the Creation of a Restricted Access Archive of Removed Content
While our mission is Universal Access to All Knowledge, we recognize that some kinds of information can be so dangerous as to warrant being restricted to a limited set of people.
Colloquially, libraries, archives, and museums use the term “giftschrank,” meaning “poison cabinet” to refer to an area where sensitive or potentially harmful materials are stored. This can take the form of a secret reading room that is off-limits to the general public and only those with special, scholarly permission are allowed access.
A “giftschrank” for collecting the materials that have been removed from company websites, either by reason of a legal removal request, or because the material violated the company’s own rules, could be another role for libraries to serve in the digital information ecosystem. While these materials may be harmful or dangerous to the general public, it remains vitally important for us as a society to nevertheless be able to study them. It is also important to have transparency into what kinds of materials are being removed, and what impact such removal may have on different communities. A giftschrank could help, and the Internet Archive is in a strong position to be a host institution for such an archive.
We therefore suggest that the government support the creation of a giftschrank of harmful materials removed from the internet. Some obstacles to building this include fear of potential liability for hosting the material. The government could help by limiting liability for good faith efforts. Another barrier is uncertainty around what materials should be included and who should have access. The government could help by convening a discussion with the appropriate stakeholders. Finally, funding would be necessary. The government could help either by directly providing the funds or by providing other financial incentives.
Canada updated its copyright laws in 2012, with the mandate that the new provisions be reviewed in 5 years. Over the past 2 years the Canadian government has been studying the impacts of the law (the comments we submitted last December can be found here) and recently issued a very reasonable set of recommendations for modest improvements to the law.
Canadian scholar Michael Geist summarized the report better than we ever could here. His summary of the key takeaways are:
expansion of fair dealing by making the current list of fair dealing purposes illustrative rather than exhaustive (the “such as” approach)
rejection of new limits on educational fair dealing with further study in three years
retention of existing Internet safe harbour rules
rejection of the FairPlay site blocking proposal with insistence that any blocking include court oversight
expansion of the anti-circumvention rules by permitting circumvention of digital locks for purposes that are lawful (ie. permit circumvention to exercise fair dealing rights)
extend the term of copyright only if ratifying the USCMA and include a registration requirement for the additional 20 years implement
a new informational analysis exception
further study of statutory damages for all copyright collectives along with greater transparency
adoption of an open licence rather than the abolition of crown copyright
We are very pleased to see Canada moving towards more flexibility in their fair dealing regime, open licenses for government works, and registration requirements for longer terms and away from draconian site blocking and filtering proposals. We hope these reasonable recommendations will be followed by the Canadian Parliament.
The final vote on the Copyright Directive in the European Parliament is expected between the 26 and 28 March. As we explained previously, one particular provision, known as Article 13, would lead to upload filters being required on most Internet services. The proposed law has only gotten worse over the months of debate, and many in the EU and across the globe are concerned that this will lead to censorship even of legal content. The #SaveYourInternet fight has one last chance to prevent this law from taking effect. If you are an EU citizen, the most effective thing you can do is to call your MEP and ask them to vote against Article 13. Real world peaceful protests are also planned throughout Europe. Go to savetheinternet.info/demos to find out where your nearest demonstration is. Those of us outside the EU can support this effort on social media using the #SaveYourInternet hashtag.