This week, Public Knowledge, the public interest policy group, announced the winners of its 17th annual IP3 Awards. IP3 awards honor those who have made significant contributions in the three areas of “IP”—intellectual property, information policy, and internet protocol. On September 24, the 2020 Intellectual Property award will be presented to Lila Bailey, Policy Counsel at the Internet Archive.
“She has been a tremendous advocate and leader behind the scenes on behalf of libraries and archives, ensuring both can serve the public in the digital era,” said Chris Lewis, President and CEO of Public Knowledge. “Working at the intersection between copyright and information access, Lila has been instrumental in promoting equitable access to contemporary research through Controlled Digital Lending — the library lending practice currently under threat because of a legal challenge from large commercial publishers.”
“My whole career has been leading up to this moment,” Bailey mused, speaking about her role defending the Internet Archive against the publishers’ copyright lawsuit. “This is what I went to law school to do: to fight for the democratization of knowledge.”
In private practice at Perkins Cole, Bailey won the Pro Bono Leadership award for her tireless work defending the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine against a legal challenge.
Bailey later went on to work for Creative Commons, helping to ensure that everyone everywhere has access to high quality, open educational resources. She served as a fellow at the Electronic Freedom Foundation, and later returned to Berkeley Law as a Teaching Fellow to help train the next generation of public interest technology lawyers.
“Now that our lives are largely online, copyright law, which is supposed to promote creativity and learning, sometimes creates barriers to these daily activities. The work I am doing is to try to clear some of those barriers away so we can realize that utopian vision of universal access to knowledge.”
Since joining the Internet Archive as Policy Counsel in 2017, Bailey has focused on building a community of practice around Controlled Digital Lending (CDL). Although the library practice has existed for more than a decade, Bailey has been working with Michelle Wu, Kyle K. Courtney, David Hansen, Mary Minow and other legal scholars to help libraries navigate the complex legal framework that allows libraries to bring their traditional lending function online. Today, with hundreds of endorsers, Controlled Digital Lending defines a legal pathway for libraries to digitize the books they already own and lend them online in a secure way.
“As a copyright lawyer, I find her to be an incredibly inspiring colleague, a natural leader, and great person,” said Harvard Copyright Advisor, Kyle Courtney, who works with Bailey on the CDL Task Force. “I know that her work creates a multiplier effect that can inspire others, like myself, to advocate for greater access to culture and enhance a library’s role in the modern world.”
So what drives this intellectual property warrior forward? “Access to knowledge matters to everyone. It’s the great equalizer. That is what the internet has given us—this vision of everyone having equal ability to learn and also to teach, to read and also to speak,” she explained. “Now that our lives are largely online, copyright law, which is supposed to promote creativity and learning, sometimes creates barriers to these daily activities. The work I am doing is to try to clear some of those barriers away so we can realize that utopian vision of universal access to knowledge.”
Previous IP3 Award winners include Bailey’s mentors Professor Pam Samuelson and Internet Archive founder, Brewster Kahle; along with many of her heroes including professors Peter Jaszi, Lateef Mtima, and Rebecca Tushnet. Be sure to attend the award ceremony on September 24, 6-8 PM ET, by registering here.
“That’s how I think of it now: listening as intimacy. My shoulders dropped. The muscles in my neck and face relaxed. I breathed more deeply.”
—Donald Antrim, “How Music Can Bring Relief During These Anxious Times,” The New Yorker
Every Monday at 9:55 a.m., the concerts begin. Lap steel guitarists. Feminist indie folk bands. Improvisational cellists. For the Internet Archive staff, spread across many continents, these ten-minute concerts that begin and end our work week create an aural bubble where listening together feels intimate, uplifting. For us this music has somehow become, yes, essential. For the artists, zooming in from makeshift home stages, the chance to perform live for our staff of 100+ creates a connection with an audience that has been severed during the pandemic. “It was so nourishing to be supported, not only emotionally, but also financially at a time when musicians are being hit incredibly hard,” said singer-songwriter, Annie Hart. “It made my art feel valued and appreciated and helped me continue to make more.”
The idea to create this impromptu concert series originated with Alexis Rossi, who heads the Internet Archive’s Collections team. Five minutes before our Monday morning and Friday lunch staff zoom meetings, Alexis and Web Archiving Program Manager, Peggy Lee, act as virtual stage managers, getting performers dialed in, audio levels tweaked. The Internet Archive pays performers a small fee and staffers “tip” the artists through paypal or Venmo. “”I have several friends who are full time performers, and shelter in place completely destroyed their ability to work and make a living,” explains Rossi. “So I jumped at the chance to help book acts because I knew that even a little bit of income would help.”
“The music series has been a way we bring people into our house, the place where we come together as a community, and have this shared experience together. I love those ten minutes.”
—Peggy Lee, Co-producer, Essential Music
What started as a fun idea has solidified into ESSENTIAL MUSIC: Concerts From Home, a program that we believe could be replicated anywhere, offering organizations many intangible benefits. “The Internet Archive’s live performances have been such a bright spot in my week,” says engineer, Jason Buckner. “They bring such a positive energy to our meetings and you can see it in the faces of everyone watching on Zoom.” Just ten minutes of music seems to have a magical effect on staff: inspiration. “Seeing other creatives excel at what they do helps bind me closer to my work,” agrees Isa Herico Velasco, Internet Archive engineer. “It affirms what we are actually stewarding: the preservation and celebration of humanity.”
Here are some of the Essential Music concerts, recorded and shared by permission of the artists:
Ainsley Wagoner / Silverware (6/16/20)
Ainsley Wagoner creates ethereal music as the artist, Silverware. Ainsley is also a product designer who co-created the super cool OAM project — an experiment in mixing sound, colours, and geometries on the web. “Performing is one of my favorite parts about being a musician,” says Wagoner. “Even though I have recorded music online, nothing beats playing a song live. For now, I don’t have an in-person performance outlet, so it felt really good to do that virtually with the Internet Archive.”
Alex Spoto (6/22/20)
Alex is a multi-instrumentalist who has performed and recorded with Last Good Tooth, Benjamin Booker, and many others. He is a longtime contributor for Aquarium Drunkard and the co-author of Fowre 2: Gone Country, a book of interviews with contemporary Country musicians. He got his start playing classical violin, then ‘old-time’ folk music, and then improvised “free” music. He is currently musically obsessed with cajun fiddling, old cumbia, the jazzier side of Merle Haggard, the polyrhythmic foundation of Saharan folk music, the sly and sensitive folkways of Michael Hurley, and the Internet Archive’s 78 project!
Vickie Vertiz (6/26/20)
The oldest child of an immigrant Mexican family, Vickie Vértiz was born and raised in Bell Gardens, a city in southeast Los Angeles County. Her writing is featured in the New York Times magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, Huizache, Nepantla, the Los Angeles Review of Books, KCET Departures, and the anthologies: Open the Door (from McSweeney’s and the Poetry Foundation), and The Coiled Serpent (from Tia Chucha Press), among many others.
Vértiz’s first full collection of poetry, Palm Frond with Its Throat Cut, published in the Camino del Sol Series by The University of Arizona Press won a 2018 PEN America literary prize. Vickie is a proud member of Colectivo Miresa, a feminist cooperative speaker’s bureau, her first poetry collection, Swallows, is available from Finishing Line Press. She teaches at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Jess Sylvester / Marinero (6/29/20)
Jess Sylvester is a Bay Area chicanx songwriter/composer, also known as Marinero. Marinero is known for his dreamy, cholo-fi signature style of taking samples of 60s latin music and adding spacey pop flavors. His newest album, Trópico de Cáncer, is rooted in bossa nova and Tropicália sounds. Watch his profile in Content Magazine.
Sylverster says: “I was actually touched by the introduction given to me right before playing a song for their team. It was a shock to hear the level of research they had done referencing my life and past projects, and in retrospect made sense considering it was the Internet Archive just living up to their name.” Thank you for listening to my music and making me feel heard and supported.”
Ivan Forde (7/6/20)
Ivan Forde is a Guyanese-born, Harlem artist. Forde (b. 1990) works across sound performance, printmaking, digital animation and installation. Using a wide variety of photo-based and print-making processes (and more recently music and performance), Ivan Forde retells stories from epic poetry casting himself as every character. His non-linear versions of these time-worn tales open the possibility of new archetypes and alternative endings. By crafting his own unique mythology and inserting himself in historical narratives, he connects the personal to the universal and offers a transformative view of prevailing narratives in the broader culture.
Zachary James Watkins (7/10/20)
Zachary James Watkins is an Oakland-based sound artist and is one-half of the ecstatic duo Black Spirituals. Zachary has received commissions from Cornish, The Microscores Project, The Beam Foundation, Somnubutone, the sfSoundGroup and the Seattle Chamber Players. He has shared bills with Earth, the Sun Ra Arkestra, and designed the sound and composed music for the plays “I Have Loved Strangers.” His 2006 composition Suite for String Quartet was awarded the Paul Merritt Henry Prize for Composition and has subsequently been performed at the Labs 25th Anniversary Celebration, the Labor Sonor Series at Kule in Berlin Germany and in Seattle Wa, as part of the 2nd Annual Town Hall New Music Marathon. Zachary has been an artist in residence at the Espy Foundation, Djerassi and the Headlands Center for The Arts.
Bill Walker (7/13/20)
A gifted composer and instrumentalist, Bill Walker’s music has been described as cinematic, adventurous, and innovative. His solo performances create a rich tapestry of layered sounds, blending electric and acoustic guitars, lap steel guitars, and percussive guit-boxing with state of the art live looping techniques and sound design.
This Santa Cruz, CA-based musician was featured in Guitar Player Magazine for his collaboration with Erdem Helvacioglu on the critically acclaimed CD, “Fields and Fences”. To hear more tune in to his YouTube channel.
Jennifer Cheng (7/17/20)
Jennifer S. Cheng’s work includes poetry, lyric essay, and image-text forms exploring immigrant home-building, shadow poetics, and the feminine monstrous. She is the author of MOON: LETTERS, MAPS, POEMS, selected by Bhanu Kapil for the Tarpaulin Sky Award, and HOUSE A, selected by Claudia Rankine for the Omnidawn Poetry Prize. She is a 2019 NEA Literature Fellow and graduated from Brown University, the University of Iowa, and San Francisco State University.
Jess Sah Bi (7/17/20)
Jess Sah Bi, with his musical partner, Peter One, is one of the most popular musical acts in West Africa, performing to stadium-sized audiences at home in the Ivory Coast and throughout Benin, Burkina Faso, and Togo. Their album, Our Garden Needs Its Flowers, originally thrust them into stardom in the late ’80s. The album was inspired both by classic American country and folk music and the traditions of Ivorian village songs, but it focused thematically on the political turmoil of the region. Songs are sung in French, Gouro, and English.
Theresa Wong (7/24/20)
Theresa Wong is a San Francisco-based composer, cellist and vocalist active at the intersection of music, experimentation, improvisation and the synergy of multiple disciplines. Bridging sound, movement, theater and visual art, her primary interest lies in finding the potential for transformation for both the artist and receiver alike. Her works include The Unlearning (Tzadik), 21 songs for violin, cello and 2 voices inspired by Goya’s Disasters of War etchings, O Sleep, an improvised opera for an 8 piece ensemble exploring the conundrum of sleep and dream life. In 2018, Theresa founded fo’c’sle, a record label dedicated to adventurous music from the Bay Area and beyond. Theresa has shared her work internationally at venues including Fondation Cartier in Paris, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Cafe Oto in London, Festival de Arte y Ópera Contemporánea in Morelia, Mexico and The Stone and Roulette in New York City.
After her performance, the artist wrote, ““I could sense the spirit reaching out beyond glass and pixels, sparking back to life that basic need of connecting with others.”
On July 22, 2020, Pamela Samuelson, Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law and Information at the University of California, Berkeley, spoke at a press conference about the copyright lawsuit against the Internet Archive brought by the publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House.These are her remarks:
Good afternoon. Very happy to be here with you today. The Authors Alliance has several thousand members around the world and we have endorsed the controlled digital lending as a fair use and I think that this is a lawsuit I hoped would never happen. Because controlled digital lending has been going on for such a long time, it’s really tragic that at this time of pandemic that the publishers would try to basically cut off even access to a digital public library like the Internet Archive is running.
I don’t know about your library, but my libraries in California are closed. I can’t get any books out of even the University of California Berkeley Library at this point, the whole campus is closed, and so while I haven’t been using the Open Library for my research purposes because they don’t have the books in it that I need, I do think that that it’s just a heartless, tragic thing that this lawsuit is really trying to stop a very positive thing that Internet Archive has been doing.
I’m one of the legal scholars who has endorsed the controlled digital lending statement. I think that even under some second circuit opinions, one can say that the Open Library has actually a utility-enhancing transformative use. It’s certainly nonprofit, it’s educational, and it promotes literacy and many, many positive things. I think that the idea that lending a book is illegal is just wrong.
I would actually like to point out that in Germany, where copyright laws are generally stronger than in the United States, that the Darmstadt Technical University was able to succeed in its non-infringement claim for digitizing a book, and here’s the important point: just because the publisher wanted to license an ebook to that library, the Court of Justice of the European Union said it’s not an infringement for the library to actually digitize one of its own books and make that book available to the public. So if that’s true in Germany, I think it should be true in the US as well.
About the speaker:
Pamela Samuelson is the Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law and Information at the University of California, Berkeley. She is recognized as a pioneer in digital copyright law, intellectual property, cyberlaw and information policy. Since 1996, she has held a joint appointment at Berkeley Law School and UC Berkeley’s School of Information. Samuelson is a director of the internationally-renowned Berkeley Center for Law & Technology. She is co-founder and chair of the board of Authors Alliance, a nonprofit organization that promotes the public interest in access to knowledge. She also serves on the board of directors of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as on the advisory boards for the Electronic Privacy Information Center , the Center for Democracy & Technology, Public Knowledge, and the Berkeley Center for New Media.
Put simply, the campaign asks Congress to clarify libraries’ right to buy and lend books today as they have done for centuries.
Today, amidst a skyrocketing demand for digital books, many books are not available on digital shelves at any price because there are no commercially available digital versions of older titles. This gap limits how libraries can serve their patrons.
“Many libraries are currently closed, and sadly it looks like they may be for months to come,” said John Bergmayer, Legal Director of Public Knowledge. “We need to make sure that libraries can continue serving their communities, not just during the pandemic, but after, as tightened budgets put the squeeze on library services and limit the scope of their collections.”
Filling the Gap with Controlled Digital Lending
Libraries have begun making and lending out digital versions of physical works in their collections based on current legal protections—a practice called Controlled Digital Lending, or CDL. As Public Knowledge’s Let Libraries Fight Back campaign explains:
CDL is a powerful tool to bridge the gap between print and electronic resources. Under CDL, a digital copy of a physical book can only be read and used by one person at a time. Only one person can “borrow” an electronic book at once, and while it is being lent electronically, the library takes the physical book out of circulation.
CDL allows libraries to reach their patrons even when those patrons can’t make it to the physical library — a problem that’s been more prevalent than ever during the pandemic. Without programs like this, library patrons are prevented from accessing a world of content and information — and low-income, rural, and other marginalized communities are hit the hardest.
However, Public Knowledge acknowledges that the challenge extends beyond print materials. “Controlled Digital Lending makes it so that a library’s existing print collection is more useful, and can be accessed remotely,” explained Bergmayer. “But we also need to make sure that libraries can acquire digital-native books and other media under the same terms they have always operated under.”
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.
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.
For the last eight weeks, our 78s Dating Team has been combing through the history of musical recordings. Among our 78s collection of 188,000 sides sat a backlog of 40,000 discs in need of more data. Our team of book scanners, locked out of their libraries, got to work, pouring through guides to find a review or publication date. Often, discographies revealed nothing. That’s when our team turned to web sleuthing. What we discovered is that behind each disc lies a story—sometimes hidden, mostly forgotten with the passage of time, often magical.
Released in 1966, just two years after the original version written by Van Morrison was released by Them, this version of Gloria is a cover completely in Spanish. The long list of covers of this song throughout history, including versions by Patti Smith and The Doors, rarely includes this version. Gloria provides strong evidence that rock and roll music had gone global by the mid-1960s.
Giter Bruder nicht gechapt is a Yiddish theatre song from 1907. According to the translation, this song is about how to deal with sexual harassment, as told by cis-female, cross-dressing Yiddish Vaudeville star, Pepi Litman (1874-1930).
The chorus, roughly translated:
Good brother, don’t grab, grabbing is no good.
If you grab I’ll hit you back, I’ll beat you bloody.
Oy, you’ll get beaten up, your head will fall off.
Then you’ll know, young man: if you grab, you’ll get burnt.
Pepi was known for performing in men’s clothing on stage and is often considered a proto-Drag King. Really cool to find such an early example of drag performance, from a Jewish vaudeville performer popular more than 100 years ago!
Sister Rosetta Tharpe is often considered the “Godmother” of Rock and Roll guitar and singing. Rock and Roll pioneers, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis credit Sister Rosetta for inspiring their musical styles. But Sister Rosetta has only recently been recognized for her contribution to the genre—inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just two years ago.
A guitar prodigy in her church community, Sister Rosetta became a household name in gospel music at a young age and ruffled feathers when she transitioned to more secular music. At a time when it was difficult to be a Black, female, electric guitar player, Sister Rosetta broke every conceivable boundary on her road to success. On an early tour across the United States she had a kitchen and beds installed in what may have been the first music tour bus. Why? Many venues would not allow her to have a meal in their establishment because she was Black. Just like her powerful voice, Sister Rosetta was a force of nature that could not be stopped.
You may know Pandit Ravi Shankar as the sitar virtuoso who taught George Harrison of The Beatles how to play the sitar. While dating the 78s, we stumbled upon this fantastic record featuring Shankar’s absolute mastery of the sitar. Pressed in Pakistan and recorded in India, this 78 recording is a rare gem.
Known as “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas,” Sophie Tucker was an amazing vaudeville/Jazz/Jewish singer who was hugely popular in the 1910s-1930s. She toured internationally and often played to Jewish crowds, singing in Yiddish. Her Yiddish records were banned during Hitler’s era for evoking Jewish culture. Tucker had a lengthy career in show business even after the vaudeville era died out, performing up until just weeks before her death in 1966 at the age of 80. This is a 1951 re-recording of a song from her heyday, originally recorded in 1927.
This is probably the wildest song I have found in the 78s collection! So wild in fact that it was banned from all major radio networks as “immoral and wicked.” What radio censors didn’t understand was that Ingle was poking fun at smokers, drinkers and philanderers. Thanks to their ban, his single became a big hit. Red Ingle is one of the more prolific novelty and comedy performers of the late 1940s and early 1950s, having started with Spike Jones and His City Slickers. Enjoy this lovingly restored version!
This record comes from a complete set of Balinese gamelan music from 1928. Gamelan is a type of percussion ensemble traditional to the Javanese, Sundanese, and Balinese cultures. Described as music for temple festivals and death rituals, the set is the first and only commercially released Balinese music prior to World War II. We were able to find the descriptions captured by the ethnomusicologist who recorded this set and even found films made of the performances in the early 1930s!
One phenomenon that the 78s Dating Team discovered was the “Laughing Record.” Throughout the collection we kept coming across records with seemingly little content aside from people laughing hysterically (or manically depending on your impression). As we discovered more and more versions of these slightly creepy recordings, we looked more deeply into their origins. It turns out that The Okeh Laughing Record is one of the most enduring novelty records ever recorded! The Library of Congress researched its origins and traced it to a recording made by an opera singer in Germany in 1920. Nobody knows why the original performers were laughing, but that is the beauty of these recordings—laughter is a universal language. The Library of Congress estimates that more than one million pressings of this record were sold. To learn more about this mysterious, maniacal genre, read the Library of Congress essay here.
Everyone knows the famous Elvis Presley tune Hound Dog that skyrocketed to fame in 1956, but they may not have heard of this version sung by “Scat Man” Crothers. That’s because Crothers is a sound-alike singer for the Tops budget record label! Tops was one of many record labels that made its profits by recording knockoff covers of hit songs with sound-alike singers, for sale at a discounted price. Tops would even squeeze four songs onto each record—a big bang for your buck (or rather, 39 cents, the price tag on a Tops record in the 50s)!
We discovered this fantastic record from 1949 by someone named Shorty Muggins and immediately wondered about Shorty’s background. It turns out Got a Great Big Shovel is one of only four sides recorded by jazz performer and member of The Rat Pack, Sammy Davis Jr., under the pseudonym “Shorty Muggins.” He only recorded under this name for Capitol to separate his blues recordings from his other work. This record is a great early snapshot of a little known part of Sammy Davis Jr.’s prolific career.
EPILOGUE: To date, the 78 Dating Team has added 13,272 reviews to the 78 Collection, including recording dates and interesting historical information. You’ll find our 13,000 reviews, like hidden nuggets of gold, tucked away after the item description.
78 DATING TEAM: Alex Paananen, Annie Coates, Anthony Young, Cheryl Creed, Chris Moses, Joe Ondreicka, Mike Wankoff, LaDonna Hartmann, Lauretta Doellman, Mandy Weiler, Osamu Sueyoshi, Richard Greydanus, Tabby Garbutt (for a few days!), Taylor Kelsey, Zelda Lacoss, Tim Bigelow – manager!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Liz Rosenberg is an audio engineer and audio archivist based in Philadelphia, PA. She helped start the Great 78s Project as a transfer engineer and project lead and now leads the 78rpm Dating Blitz Project. Liz also enjoys operating audio, video, lighting and projection for live events in Philadelphia, as well as producing music in her home studio.
Long before the Covid-19 pandemic, before the righteous uprisings for racial justice swept across the world, the Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi decided to open his new memoir with this quotation:
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
As a six year old, the young Tenzin began having visions of an unknown place and the face of a man draped in saffron robes. At ten, he left his boarding school in India to set off—Huck Finn-like—in search of an answer to those waking dreams. As the scion of a prominent Brahmin family, Venerable Tenzin could have remained “well adjusted” to the role Indian society had created for him. Instead he leaned in toward the unknown. He followed his instincts, which led him to a small Japanese Buddhist Temple near Vulture’s Peak, Buddha’s favorite retreat in Rajgir, India.
Thus begins the new memoir, “Running Toward Mystery: The Adventure of an Unconventional Life,” by the Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi. On June 5, 2020, the Internet Archive invited this ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk to explore what his life lessons have to say about this tumultuous moment in history. The Venerable Tenzin selected June 5th because it is Saka Dawa, the day celebrating Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing—said to be especially auspicious for acts of kindness and compassion.
The event began with a moment of reflective silence, “in solidarity with all that is happening around us and affects us deeply,” Venerable Tenzin proclaimed. “Reflective silence hopefully generating a sense of compassion.” He was joined in conversation by former diplomat and human rights policy leader, Eileen Donahoe. “The hope is we can explore how inner spiritual transformation plays a role in the world,” she laid out. “And it’s potential to bring about understanding of our common nature and common destiny.”
“Lack of empathy is a public health issue.”
–Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi
An encounter with Mother Theresa challenged the Venerable Tenzin’s sense of certainty about his true path, teaching him to reevaluate constantly learning and unlearning. “One of the things we are recognizing today in a world full of false certainties and biases is that there is a lot of unlearning to be done,” he said. “Unlearning is important as a process before we can learn anything new.”
For the one hundred audience members, the question weighing most heavily on their hearts and minds centered on justice and social change. The author challenged the notion that banking, legal circles or law enforcement could “magically” change without deep unlearning and learning within those ranks. “I, as a Buddhist, am a big proponent of training,” the Venerable Tenzin explained. “Empathy training is as important as financial training. Compassion training is as important as learning about science, math and literature. Criticism of systems is not enough. We must respond with training mechanisms. Lack of empathy is a public health issue, and we must treat it as such.”
In this moment when millions are in the streets demanding change, this Buddhist monk acknowledged the profound tension between action and contemplation. “Introspection must be a precursor to action,” he proclaimed. “Deeper changes will actually come from this sense of awakening. When we truly recognize that there is no I without you. That there is no I without the other. That our sense of happiness is deeply intertwined, is deeply interconnected. As long as we ignore that lesson of life, everything else is window dressing.”
On March 15, the small island nation of Aruba, part of the Dutch Caribbean, closed its borders to visitors. Cruise ships packed with tourists stopped coming. Casinos, libraries and schools shut their doors, as Aruba’s 110,000 residents locked down to halt the spread of COVID-19.
Librarians quickly gathered reading lists from students, parents and schools. With high school graduation exams just a month away, the required literature books would be crucial. Aruban students are tested on books in Dutch, English, Spanish and their native language of Papiamento. “Just before your literary final exams, you need to re-read the books,” explained Peter Scholing, who leads digitization efforts at the National Library of Aruba. “The libraries are closed. Your school libraries are closed. You can order from Amazon, but it takes weeks and weeks to arrive. If you are in an emergency, then you hope your books are online.”
Scholing was relieved to discover that most of the required literature in English and Spanish was available in the Internet Archive’s National Emergency Library. As library staff moved to work from home, they grabbed the tools to digitize the books in Papiamento that were missing. Many local authors were easy to track down and most gladly gave permission for free downloads or loaning their works. Scholing reports, “Some of them choose digital lending. But a lot of them say, ‘Well it was a limited print run….I’ve sold all the copies of my books, now you can just make it available for download.’”
Preservation Pays Off
For many years, the library’s small Special Collections staff had been diligently digitizing key collections: photographs, historic texts, newspapers, and perhaps the world’s largest collection of texts in Papiamento. But with few technical resources, the National Library of Aruba had no way to provide access to those works. Scholing says the Internet Archive proved to be the “missing link.” In March 2019, the Library was able to unveil its new Digital Collection, 18,800 texts, videos and audio now accessible to the world on archive.org. Today, with libraries and schools closed, these materials are the keys to unlocking the doors to online learning.
“We didn’t imagine something like the Covid crisis could happen,” said Scholing. “But for our preservation efforts, this is the Big One. We are really lucky to be able to provide access to information that we couldn’t otherwise without the Internet Archive.”
When Waitlists Won’t Work
Although Scholing had permission from the authors to lend their recent books, several times we accidentally reinstituted the waiting list, since the National Emergency Library does not include books from the last five years. That meant students reading the work suddenly would have had to wait, sometimes for weeks, to move up the waiting list. Scholing wrote to us immediately: “There must be an alternative. I’m getting emails from students and teachers already.”
Eventually we worked out the kinks so Aruba’s books in the National Emergency Library wouldn’t get taken down. In addition, hundreds of texts in Papiamento from 1844-2020 are now available without waitlist. It’s part of a bigger vision on the island to teach students to read and write the language they speak at a higher level. “A lot of textbooks come straight from the Netherlands…you are reading about snow, trains and windmills,” Scholing explained. “It’s better to use something from a newspaper or magazine produced locally…It’s their own context. It speaks more to them.”
He even received this note from a local author, written in Papiamento:
Peter aprecia, (Dear Peter,)
Hopi admiracion pa e trabou cu bo ta desplegando pa Aruba y nos hendenan.
(A lot of admiration for the work that you are carrying out for Aruba and for our people.)
This week, schools in Aruba are scheduled to reopen. Since March, the library has tripled the number of items in its digital collection, and visitors have increased by 300%. Scholing sees this as evidence that the National Emergency Library will have lasting benefit. “All the thresholds and barriers to access this unique information have been lifted, once you put it online.”
For six weeks, Internet Archive book scanner, Mandy Weiler, was unable to digitize art history books inside the now shuttered Getty Research Institute. Furloughed and stuck inside her 500-square-foot apartment in Los Angeles, she spent a lot of time staring out the window. She took up bird watching and hung out with her cat. Then, the Internet Archive had an idea: bring scanners back from furlough and hire experts to teach Mandy and other book scanners new skills, including dating 78 rpm records and performing custom audio restoration on these recordings from a century ago. “Before I was doing the whole Doom Scrolling all day long,” Mandy recalls. “When we came back from furlough…I was really glad to get assigned to the 78 project. It has been such a nice distraction to get lost in these old records.”
Across the country, in Philadelphia, music metadata researcher Liz Rosenberg was also in need of work. A specialist in 78 rpm records trained by the legendary George Blood, Liz agreed to lead a new project cataloging 38,000 discs in our 78s collection for which the date of publication is unknown. Her team of a dozen former book scanners starts with the data on the record labels, but that is often just the beginning. Almost every 78 recording was originally assigned a matrix number, usually etched into the shellac itself. It is the only sure way of identifying a performance, but certain record labels such as Victor kept its matrix numbers secret. Sometimes only abbreviated versions of the matrix number are printed on the label itself.
Enter Mandy Weiler, who has a bachelor’s degree in Public History and has worked for libraries for the last decade. Turns out that digging up music metadata is right in her wheelhouse. “It’s a lot of web sleuthing. I’m one of those people who have 100 tabs open all the time on their computer,” she explained. “My partner calls me a story hoarder. I’m glad we are putting it to good use.”
Take for instance this 78 disc, Reigen (La Ronde de L’amour) by Adolf Wohlbruck, publication date unknown. “I started in all the normal places, but I wasn’t getting any hits,” Mandy recounted. “I couldn’t narrow down the dates and then I started finding out more about the performer.”
Mandy’s research uncovered a fascinating story behind this disc. The performer, Adolf Wohlbruck, was better known as Anton Walbrook, the queer, Jewish son of a circus performer who fled Nazi Germany in 1936. Walbrook went on to become a celebrated actor in Hollywood and England.
In La Ronde, the 1950 film for which he recorded this performance, Walbrook plays the master of ceremonies in a cycle of stories about love. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards and was later remade in a 1964 film starring Jane Fonda.
Perhaps Walbrook’s best known films are the 49th Parallel and The Red Shoes, both of which you can still watch in the Internet Archive. All of this rich backstory is now recorded in the Internet Archive Review Section for this 78 rpm record.
“It can take you down some great rabbit holes,” Mandy said. “This is the stuff I’ve been interested in my adult life. Digging in and finding information that is not readily available and sharing it. Universal Access to to Knowledge. That’s important to me because it helps so many people.”
Oh, and the publication date of the 78 Reigen? Mandy says it is likely 1951. Can anyone help us further?
She’s an author of crime fiction. A college librarian. A recently retired faculty member at a small liberal arts college in Minnesota. For more than 30 years, Barbara Fister has felt the opposing pull from her publishers and the call of open access; from the need for books to make money and the desire for her published work to live on into the next century. Plus, this author and librarian has authored five books now available in the National Emergency Library.
Because Fister resides at the nexus of authors and libraries, we wanted to understand why on April 15, 2020, she posted this to her Twitter account:
From her home in rural Minnesota, Fister (who is “not a fan of Zoom/Skype/etc”) and I corresponded by email. “Honestly, I was surprised,” Barbara wrote. “When I started poking around the National Emergency Library I did a vanity search and—hey, look at that! I had to tweet that my books were there, because it made me happy. Then I started looking for things I would check out of my academic library if it were open, and many of those books were there, too. It’s very gratifying to have that access.”
As Fister sees it, “Regardless of the legal issues, I think the Internet Archive has the moral high ground in launching the National Emergency Library. There’s no way people who already contributed to paying for access to books through taxes or tuition can individually purchase every book they might want to consult while the libraries they relied on (and helped to fund) are closed. We need to consider the public good in this crisis.”
One reason Fister is “tickled” is because her novels, published in 2008 and 2010, are hard to find, even in libraries. “They were published a while ago, so a lot of public libraries have no doubt weeded them to make room for more recent titles, which is totally understandable,” Fister explained. “I have worried a bit about the disappearance of non-academic books from the public cultural record. There was a time scholars could rediscover overlooked women writers long after their books went out of print, because they were on the shelves of academic libraries. In recent decades, however, academic book budgets have been strained and very few libraries purchase and retain popular literature.” She believes this “gradual forgetting of the popular” makes a shared digital collection like the Internet Archive’s even more valuable. “Even without a pandemic, it’s a need that I’m happy the Internet Archive is tackling.”
Fister has made many of her publications completely open access, and downloadable through the Internet Archive. It’s a value she embraced as an academic librarian. “As a library, we consciously promoted open access because equitable access to information is a core library value. For that reason, I have tried to make as much of my work open access as possible. This gets tricky with books, because both authors and publishers put a great deal of work into a book, and since I respect the value editors and publishers add, I sympathize with the need to have a business model that supports that critical hand-crafted work.”
But as both an author and a librarian, Fister doesn’t subscribe to the notion that libraries in general and the National Emergency Library in particular are cutting into author revenue.”It’s not a competition, it’s a symbiosis.” she wrote. ”I don’t think they understand how unlikely it is that allowing multiple users of these versions of their books will adversely affect their income, but it seems many authors view it as a moral argument. ‘You can’t scan my books, period. It’s my property, and you didn’t ask my permission.’ Admittedly, like most authors I don’t depend on my writing for a living; perhaps if I did I would feel differently. But as it is, I’m delighted if anyone discovers my books and enjoys them.”
There’s no way people who already contributed to paying for access to books through taxes or tuition can individually purchase every book they might want to consult while the libraries they relied on (and helped to fund) are closed. We need to consider the public good in this crisis.
As an academic, Fister has spoken and written extensively about information literacy, the “understanding of how information is produced and valued…ethically in communities of learning.” She points to Congress and the current copyright laws as the source of current tensions between open access advocates, libraries, authors and publishers, writing:
Launching the National Emergency Library has been risky for the Internet Archive, and I appreciate that act of risk-taking as a person who would like us to do a better job of balancing social and individual interests in the original Constitutional purpose of copyright – “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Congress has tilted much too far against society’s legitimate interest by making “limited time” for copyright owners nearly unlimited. This is actually bad for authors – and for all of us. Copyright isn’t working as it should, but people are too nervous to make full use of fair use because losing a lawsuit could be ruinous. The Authors Guild does not represent all authors. It certainly doesn’t represent my interests. I’m more aligned with the Authors Alliance.
Some day in the future, when COVID-19 is defeated and libraries are once again open, Fister believes that scholars of library history will examine this moment and “be pleased that their research is available to Americans who are learning and working from home during this historic pandemic.”
Barbara Fister is one of those working from home.
Earlier, Barbara returned a library book she needs for her research, Wayne Wiegand’sA Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of American Public Libraries, but now that her library is closed, she was delighted to find it in the National Emergency Library. “’I’m scrolling through on my laptop, typing out quotes I want to note down; no copying and pasting or downloading the file for keeps allowed, all limits which makes it not at all like piracy,” she wrote. “This effort to make so many books available for the duration, legally risky and technically challenging, is beyond what any single library could do. While the National Emergency Library isn’t the same as our local libraries, it’s a wonderful thing to have available in these challenging times.”