Authorized readers have special access to millions of digitized books through the Internet Archive’s program, connecting patrons with print disabilities to a vast digital library.
Doug Wilson says he’s a bit of a “bookaholic.” As senior pastor of a nondenominational church in West Covina, California, he surrounds himself with books at his office and study at home.
“I’m a voracious reader and love learning,” said Wilson, who recalls taking a wagon to the library every week as a kid and bringing back a stack of books. “I find life intriguing.”
The 64-year-old said his vision has never been great, but within the last year noticed it was worsening. Wilson was struggling to read print with small font sizes or in low light. An avid user of the Internet Archive, he learned about the Archive’s program for users with print disabilities, which allows authorized users to skip waitlists for the ebook collection and download protected EPUBs and PDFs. Wilson applied for the program and was granted access, with great results.
“It’s so helpful to be able to have multiple resources open at once on my computer,” said Wilson, who looks up material online from ancient thought to contemporary theology for his sermons. “It’s been wonderful to find something on just about anything.”
Signing up for the program was easy and fast, said Wilson. Students and researchers associated with a university can obtain access through their university library or student success center. For those outside higher ed, the process is run by Jessamyn West at the Vermont Mutual Aid Society, who receives requests through an online form from patrons around the world. People who qualify for the program include those with blindness, low-vision, dyslexia, brain injuries and other cognition problems who need extra time to interact with materials. Since October 2018, West has welcomed more than 5,600 users into the program.
“It makes a real difference to people’s lives,” said West. “Especially nowadays when many people are stuck at home and working with limited resources, having a world of accessible books available to them opens doors and expands horizons. I’ve seen people checking out books on drawing and painting, books about art history and comparative religions, and just a lot of fiction. The collection is truly extensive.”
With expanded access to digitized books, Wilson said he has been reconnecting with works written by many of his mentors through the digital theological collections. “It’s been a profound gift to discover those books that have been influential in my life. Getting access has been another way to be encouraged and mentored even from a distance,” said Wilson, adding he is in a season of life when many of those people are passing away. “The service has been so generous and a supplement to my own library.”
Being able to find the exact resource he needs from home and late at night is a convenience that Wilson said he values. Wilson has enjoyed books from Marygrove Library, a collection full of religious and social justice materials that was recently donated and made available online.
In an era with competing forms of information and disinformation, Wilson said the Internet Archive is important. “Wisdom is hard to come by,” said Wilson. “We are barraged with data in our culture. It can be hard to ferret out what’s real. To have access to actual information and works that have stood the test of time is a godsend.”
To learn more about the Internet Archive’s program for users with print disabilities, and to verify eligibility, please visit the program web page.
Looking around your home in the new year and wondering what to do with all the stuff you’ve accumulated? You’re not alone — turns out 54% of Americans are overwhelmed by the amount of clutter around them. As people move or downsize, they are often in a dilemma about what to do with their beloved books and records. The same goes for colleges and libraries when they close or relocate. So what’s a preservation-minded person or organization supposed to do with their extra books, records, or other media?
The Internet Archive is here to help! We welcome donations with open arms — from single books to entire libraries. The Internet Archive seeks to preserve and digitize one copy of every book, record, CD, film, and microfilm in support of our mission to provide “Universal Access to All Knowledge.”
“Increasingly, people are turning to the Internet Archive to preserve materials and give them new life online,” said Liz Rosenberg, donation manager. “Staff members can even help to arrange for a convenient pick up of larger donations.”
“We are always looking for items that we don’t have already or ones that are in better shape,” said Rosenberg, who encourages people to check online, if convenient, if a copy is needed. For large collections or donations with special circumstances, Internet Archive will go onsite to pack and ship items at no expense to the donor. “Our goal is to make this process easy for donors.”
Internet Archive receives a variety of materials from individuals and organizations. Boxes can be mailed to facilities in Richmond, California, or brought to drop off locations in the U.S. and England. The Archive tries to digitize materials and make them available publicly, as funding allows.
Recent personal donations have included a collection of railroad maps and atlases from the 1800s. Also, a large collection of fragile 78rpm records was donated by a person in Washington, D.C., and 18,000 LP, 45, and 78 records were donated from a home in Arkansas.
We are happy to give donors a receipt for tax purposes and celebrate the donation on the archive.org site if appropriate.
“We would love to provide a forever home for your media wherever you are located, however much you have,” said Rosenberg. “I love doing this role. It restores my faith in the goodness of the world every day.”
The McGovern Foundation had many issues on paper, which were digitized and made searchable, but getting further back required finding microfilm. Some microfilm was found at the time and was digitized, but frankly it did not look very good.
Microfilm, now out-of-print and obsolete, was an important format for providing access — a microfilm pioneer, Robert C Binkley saw it as a democratizing force to educate everyone, not just those near libraries in large cities and top universities.
Fortunately, old microfilm collections have been acquired and also have been donated so that they can be preserved as film and preserved through digitization by the Internet Archive. Which brings us Computerworld.
This collection of Computerworld microfilm represents nearly half a century of reporting on major technology trends, from mainframes and minicomputers to iPhones, tablets and Artificial Intelligence. Now, this higher quality version of Computerworld 1967-2014 is available, searchable, and downloadable for research purposes.
This comes as the Internet Archive has been working with open source communities and with NextScan to make these and other works look as good as we can. While microfilm was almost all just grayscale, the photography, film quality, and preservation of some collections have been exceptional. By adjusting for faded film, straightening the pages, performing optical character recognition, keying dates, and detecting page numbers, the Internet Archive hopes to make our history easily accessible to everyone and for free. These works are also available to be read aloud for the print disabled.
(Full text search is available, but is in the process of being integrated.)
On January 1st, 2021, many books, movies and other media from 1925 will enter the public domain in the United States. Some of them are quite famous — jump ahead to see lists of those well known books and movies that you can enjoy on the Internet Archive — or take the scenic route with me.
What does this all mean? Essentially, many items created in 1925 in the US that are still under copyright will become free and open for people to use in any way they see fit in the new year. But check out Duke Law’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain article for a more in-depth explanation.
As part of this yearly ritual, I explore our collections to unearth these newly freed items, and I invariably run across a few things that hit a nerve. This year, it started with this intertitle in “Isn’t Life Terrible?” Less than 20 seconds into this 1925 film, and suddenly I’m dumped back into 2020.
Rude, right? I don’t even have a front yard to enjoy during shelter in place.
Gondolas still glide under the Bridge of Sighs, and the Tower of Pisa is still leaning, but the 1925 version of the Colosseum certainly lacks today’s fake gladiator photo ops.
Looking at the past with the eyes of today
Every toe dipped into the past has the potential to surprise or shock. The story of a pantry shelf, an outline history of grocery specialties is only mildly interesting on the surface. Essentially, it’s a sales pitch to food manufacturers encouraging them to advertise in a set of women’s magazines. The book contains short case histories of successful food brands like Maxwell House Coffee, Campbell Soup, Coca Cola, etc. (all of whom advertise with them, naturally).
The book gives you a glimpse of why people were so enthusiastic about mass produced, packaged foods. Unsanitary conditions, bugs in your sugar, milk going bad over night; things modern shoppers never think about.
It puts this glowing praise of Kraft Cheese into perspective: “…a pasteurized product, blended to obtain a uniformity of quality and flavor, a thing greatly lacking in ordinary types of cheese.” (page 149)
That’s pretty entertaining if you’re a cheese lover. I think most people would agree that Kraft cheese is no longer on the cutting edge.
But keep poking around and you find a much deeper cultural divergence. While The story of a pantry shelf is extolling the virtues of the home economics training available at Cornell, you stumble across this horrifying sentence (page 12).
I was not expecting to read about orphaned babies being used as “learning aids” while flipping through stories about Jell-O. Intellectually, I know that attitudes towards children have changed over the years — the Fair Labor Standards Act, which set federal standards for child labor, wasn’t even passed until 1938. But this casual aside tossed in amongst the marketing hype still packs an emotional punch. It’s important to remember how far we have come.
Even writing that was forward-thinking for the time, like the booklet Homo-sexual life, is terribly backward according to today’s standards. It’s from the Little Blue Book series — we have many that were published in 1925, and the publisher was quite prolific for many years. The series provided working class people with inexpensive access to all kinds of topics including philosophy, sexuality, science, religion, law, and government. Post WWII, they published criticism of J. Edgar Hoover and the founder was subsequently targeted by the FBI for tax evasion. But in 1925, they were going strong and one of their prolific writers was Clarence Darrow.
Controversies of the Age
Darrow was writing about prohibition for the Little Blue Book series in 1925, but that is also the year he defended John T. Scopes for teaching evolution in his Tennessee classroom. The Scopes Trial generated a huge amount of publicity, pitting religion against science, and even giving rise to popular songs like these two 78rpm recordings from 1925.
Like the Scopes trial, prohibition had its passionate adherents and detractors. This was the “Roaring 20s” — the year The Great Gatsby was published — with speakeasies and flappers and iconic cocktails. And yet the pro-prohibition silent film Episodes in the Life of a Gin Bottle follows a bottle around as it lures people into a state of dissolution.
And the most unchanging part of this particular season, of course — children still anticipate the arrival of Santa Claus with questions, wishes and schemes.
The silent film Santa Claus features two children who want to know where Saint Nick lives and how he spends his time. We follow him to the North Pole (Alaska in disguise) to see Santa’s workshop, snow castle, reindeer, and friends and neighbors. Jack Frost, introduced around 14:20, appears to be wearing the prototype for Ralphie’s bunny suit in “A Christmas Story” (but with a magic wand). Stick around for the sleigh crash at 20:45, and right around 22:20 Santa wipes out on the ice.
And just in case you’re still doing your holiday shopping, I feel like I should pass on a recommendation from this ad in a 1925 The Billboard magazine: Armadillo Baskets make beautiful Christmas gifts. And you can still buy vintage versions online – trust me, I looked. You’re welcome.
As part of our #EmpoweringLibraries campaign, we’re asking our community what digital lending means to them. We’ve been flooded with stories of how free access to online books is empowering people and improving lives. Here are some highlights so far.
Many of you wrote to tell us about how borrowing books through our Archive has been a lifeline during COVID-19. Tudor, a reader from Romania, said, “it’s been immensely helpful during the pandemic. My local library has been closed and I’ve been able to proceed with a translation project because I was able to find the books I needed on Internet Archive.”
Alejandra, an educator from New Mexico, highlighted the importance of digital lending for the libraries community during the pandemic: “I usually train librarians and during the lockdown, this activity has increased. As we are unable to visit the libraries, I promote the use of the Internet Archive lending library to meet the information needs.”
For people with disabilities or long-term health conditions, it can be difficult to access a local library even outside of a pandemic. Shari, a reader in Indiana, shared how controlled digital lending empowered her in difficult circumstances.
“When my physical disabilities became overwhelming… I finally had to stop working, and became primarily home bound. I could not travel far, or often, and the limited resources available didn’t make it worth my trouble. But, getting on the Internet at home, and traveling there to any destination I wished through the Internet Archive has provided me with information and images, including photographs, drawings, descriptions, floor plans, and historical information made my days just fly by. It has literally saved my sanity, as I went through a significant period of depression for at least a year.”
Many of you also shared how the Archive helps you gain a global perspective and access texts from diverse cultures. Sean, an author from Oregon, uses the Archive to find design ideas in old magazines, particularly from cultures he believes he wouldn’t otherwise have been exposed to. The Archive has given him “a wider understanding of graphic history, and my small place in the global historical context.” Several users also report using the Archive to learn more about their own cultural heritage. Teresa, a reader in Philadelphia, reported that the Archive “has been great helping me to trace and understand my African American ancestry.”
Your stories show the power of controlled digital lending to unite global communities and connect us to our cultural heritage. They also highlight its necessity for people who struggle to access physical books, as well as those affected by emergency.
However, a current lawsuit threatens the future of this empowering practice. The impact on the lives of people who rely on digital borrowing would be severe. Our #EmpoweringLibraries campaign aims to defend controlled digital lending and the people who need it most.
You can support the campaign by sharing your story with us. How does being able to borrow digital books improve your everyday life? Let us know via this Google Form, or on Twitter using this template: As a [your role, eg. student, parent], I use @internetarchive to [eg. research papers/homeschool my kids]. Protect free access to digital books by joining the #EmpoweringLibraries campaignhttp://blog.archive.org/empoweringlibraries/
The move solved logistical and storage problems for Claremont, Hope and Evangelical, all of which were relocating or downsizing. Faced with a space crunch, transforming their collections from print to digital format allowed the libraries to provide continual access – and extend their reach.
For Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS), partnering with the Archive has enabled it to get textbooks in the hands of students who are learning at a distance. With campus buildings closed during the pandemic, libraries have been clamoring for ebooks but many vendors do not sell or license to libraries, creating a barrier to learning for disadvantaged students.
Online access through the Archive has also expanded checkout privileges to alumni, which is a major issue for academic libraries.
“Theological education aims to develop lifelong learners, so the need for the library doesn’t stop at graduation. A free online library is a huge resource,” says Karl Stutzman, director of library services at AMBS. “Church leaders who are reflective and compassionate have an impact on communities of faith, which in turn have an impact on their neighborhoods and nations. Increasingly, we are educating church leaders who are mobile and international. They need high quality online resources.”
Through a collaborative project with the Archive, AMBS has scanned 100 years of the Gospel Herald and The Mennonite journals. Having the materials available digitally, means users can search for articles or names without having to page through documents manually. The Archive has also digitized some older books that were out of print, bringing new life to the titles. In one instance, rights to a book went back to a faculty member author, who was pleased to make his book freely available online and used in a recent class that wouldn’t otherwise be available, says Stutzman.
Resources at the theological school have a long shelf time, but are not always available from publishers in electronic versions, says Stutzman. Scanning items the library already owns provides needed access through the CDL model. AMBS’s digital library (which continues to grow), along with the rich collections from other seminary libraries, will conveniently allow religious leaders to study and further their education, he says.
In June, Claremont School of Theology donated 250,000 volumes from its library to the Internet Archive as its campus faced a move from Southern California. It is in the process of affiliating with Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, and President Jeffrey Kuan is guiding the school through the transition.
“It was going to be very expensive to relocate the entire library collection. It would cost us millions of dollars, plus annual maintenance,” says Kuan, who didn’t want to consider disposing of the collection.
At the same time, Claremont’s 300 students were increasingly using online resources since the school started the Digital Theological Library (DTL), a consortium with 40 institutions housing over 600,000 digital books and tens of millions of articles. After the DTL was launched, students at Claremont began accessing the digital collection five times more than the physical collection on campus.
Kuan oversaw the transfer of 50,000 volumes from Claremont to Willamette and the rest were packed up for scanning by the Archive. The donated items include a wealth of books in feminist theology, Afro-Carribean spirituality, as well as the school’s Ancient Biblical Manuscripts Collection. Kuan says seeing theological education in a global context, there is great need in Asia, Africa and Latin America for library resources.
“We saw it both from a financial perspective that it made sense and as a contribution to the distribution of knowledge to the world that it makes perfect sense,” Kuan says. “Library resources need to be shared. The world is already so unequal.”
On the other side of the country, Princeton Theological Seminary has also been a leader in making its collection available online. It partnered with the Archive in 2008 to establish a regional digitization center on the East Coast to scan materials in the public domain. It later created the Theological Commons with 150,000 digital resources on theology and religion drawn from numerous research libraries and digitized by the Archive.
“We’ve utilized the Internet Archive approach of making these [public domain] materials not just publicly viewable, but also downloadable,” says Greg Murray, director of digital initiatives at Princeton Seminary. “We’ve built a custom, subject-matter specific, digital library that far exceeds what we could have done with our own collection. That’s what we love about the Archive…the openness and technical infrastructure to provide materials that are relevant to our researchers.”
Like other seminaries, Princeton Seminary is a small institution—separate from Princeton University. It is a stand-alone seminary with less than 400 students and doesn’t have the resources on the scale of a divinity school associated with a large university. That made digitizing its collection and collaborating with other seminaries a draw, says Murray.
While the full impact of the open collection is hard to measure, materials are being accessed from users domestically and internationally. Now the seminary is beginning to add copyrighted items to the Archive in the CDL system, providing a wealth of resources in various disciplines, Murray says.
“Access is the biggest benefit. And when you have a public health crisis, the benefit is even more pronounced having these materials online,” Murray says. “It’s also available to anyone around the world who can’t travel to Princeton….It seems like a natural extension of what the library has always done.”
Stutzman of AMBS says he’s excited about so much new theological content being available worldwide. “The reality is that Christianity is not just a U.S. phenomenon,” he says. “The hot spots using this material are often overseas in under-resourced areas. Having these materials available online in places that are just getting the Internet is going to be a really welcome addition.”
The Library Leaders Forum is an annual opportunity for the libraries community to come together and discuss the 21st-century library. This year’s virtual Forum ended last week with an inspiring session showcasing the impact of controlled digital lending. Let’s look back over some of the key moments from the session and the conference as a whole.
During the final session, we were honored to present Michelle Wu with our Hero Award for her foundational work on controlled digital lending. COVID-19 demonstrated more than ever the power of this key practice in helping libraries reach vulnerable communities. As the election approaches, the emphasis was also on the role of digital access in supporting democracy. “Reliable access to information is the great equalizer,” Wu said in her acceptance speech.
The conference was packed with insight into the impact of controlled digital lending on libraries and the communities they serve. In our policy session, experts discussed how to build a healthy information ecosystem for the 21st Century. Our community session gave a platform to librarians, educators, and technologists who are developing next-generation library tools.
The discussions showed a library community deeply committed to digital innovation and its potential for creating a more equal society. A key theme was how COVID-19 lockdowns have made librarians more aware of the necessity of digital lending. The practice, always useful in reaching communities who cannot access physical books, has been shown a powerful tool in emergency response. Practitioners also placed emphasis on the key role of digitization in archiving knowledge for future generations.
However, it was clear that this is no time for complacency. Librarians face threats that would damage their ability to make knowledge accessible and preserve it for cultural posterity. A new lawsuit challenges their right to digitize collections and make them available to the public. Combined with an increasing lack of shelf space and spates of library closures, this could mean that many valuable collections end up in landfill.
The community is determined to make sure that libraries stay “open” to all. To this end, we have launched the #EmpoweringLibraries campaign, which defends the right of libraries to own and lend digital books. Although the Forum has ended, the community will stay united through campaign activities.
We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part and helped make the Library Leaders Forum a great success. Find out how you can stay connected and protect the key role of libraries in a democratic society here.
The third and final session of the 2020 Library Leaders Forum wrapped up Tuesday with a focus on the impact of Controlled Digital Lending on communities to provide broader access to knowledge. A full recording of the session is now available online.
Michelle Wu was honored with the Internet Archive Hero Award for her vision in developing the legal concept behind CDL. In her remarks, the attorney and law librarian shared her thoughts on the development and future of the lending practice. Wu does not see the theory that she designed 20 years ago as revolutionary, but rather a logical application of copyright law that allows libraries to fulfill their mission.
Despite current legal challenges, Wu predicts CDL can continue if libraries make themselves and their users heard.
“We must make sure that the public interests served are fully described, visible and clear to lawmakers and courts at the time they make their decisions,” Wu said. “If we do that, I believe the public interest will prevail and CDL will survive.”
The pandemic has underscored the need for digital access to materials and changed attitudes about CDL among libraries that had previously been risk averse to the practice, Wu said.
“The closing of our libraries due to COVID has changed that mindset permanently,” Wu said. “It showed how the desire to avoid risk resulted in the actual and widespread harm to populations, depriving them of content at a time when access was more important than ever.”
Because of the pandemic, libraries are now empowered to try innovative practices to serve their patrons.
“With this new heightened awareness, I think the future of access is brighter,” Wu said. “Not only do I think CDL will flourish, but there seems to be very real chance that libraries will more aggressively fight to regain some of the public interest benefits of copyright that they’ve lost over the years.”
In the future, Wu maintained that CDL can ensure a balance for full and equal access to knowledge for every person.
“Reliable access to information is the great equalizer,” Wu said. “Information shapes each of us, and lack of it is part of what increases our divide.”
(A complete profile of Wu’s work can be found here.)
The event also included the virtual ribbon cutting ceremony announcing the reopening of the Marygrove College Library. The Internet Archive now houses its 70,000-volume library online, and has preserved the physical copies, after the institution closed the campus in 2019 and donated its entire collection for digitization. The move preserves books that reflect the college’s rich history of social justice and education programs that largely served women, African Americans and low-income students in Detroit.
“The knowledge that [the books] would still be available and still be utilized just keeps us going as we wrap up the college,” said Marygrove President Elizabeth Burns at the Forum. “It’s a sad, sad time, but it is also a time where we know the impact of the college will continue…It’s a very tangible measure of Marygrove for the future.”
Chris Freeland, director of Open Libraries at the Internet Archive, moderated a panel with Marygrove librarian Mary Kickham-Samy, Mike Hawthorne, a librarian at nearby Wayne State University, and Brenda Bryant, dean and director of Marygrove’s social justice program, to talk about the transformation of the library into a digital format.
“It’s exciting! I’m thrilled that it won’t be in just one small corner,” said Bryant of the library’s move online and value to scholars. Bryant built the nation’s first Master of Arts program in social justice at Marygrove and considered the library one of the best kept secrets on campus. “Like my activist friend Elena Herrada [said], the collection was important because in Detroit, reading is an act of resistance.”
Michelle Wu is leading libraries to think and act in new ways to fulfill their missions.
For nearly two decades, she has advocated for preserving and expanding access to materials by responsibly digitizing collections. Using her expertise as an attorney, law librarian and professor, Wu crafted the legal theory behind Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) and has dedicated much of her career to showing libraries how to put the concept into practice.
To honor her innovative and tireless work, Wu has been named the recipient of 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 received the award during the Library Leaders Forum final session on October 20.
“Michelle Wu was ahead of her time in understanding the transition to the digital era and brought library lending into our new landscape,” said Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive.
“Not only did Michelle see a problem coming, she did something about it,” Kahle says. “It’s a combination of being both a visionary on how the world could work and then making concrete steps to get us there.”
With library buildings closed now for safety, the demand for digital materials has grown. The pandemic magnifies the importance of using CDL as a strategy to expand services to the public, says Pamela Samuelson, a distinguished professor of law and information management at the University of California, Berkeley, who admires Wu’s insights as a scholar and librarian.
“She set the example and made people feel comfortable with a concept that was initially a little bit questionable,” says Samuelson. In her copyright classes, Samuelson now draws on Wu’s work to inform her students.
“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,” Samuelson says. “They are making good things happen to carry on the grand tradition of libraries to facilitate as much access as lawfully possible to the public they serve.”
Looking back on her career, Wu says she sort of fell into law. She abandoned plans for medical school after helping her roommate at the University of California San Diego study for the Law School Admission Test. Fascinated with the logic puzzles, she took the LSAT on a whim and did well enough to get a scholarship.
“I found I loved the theory of the law, looking at issues from all sorts of angles and finding a path through,” says Wu, who enrolled at the California Western School of Law and worked part-time at the San Diego County Law Library. She soon realized that the adversarial nature of the legal process didn’t suit how she viewed the law. Law librarianship was a better match, one grounded in collaboration and a commitment to using legal knowledge to educate and assist users in finding meaningful solutions to their legal problems . A year after earning her J.D., Wu got her master’s degree in librarianship with a certificate in law librarianship at the University of Washington.
She landed her first job at George Washington University Law School Library. In 2001, she was hired by the University of Houston School of Law. It was there, following the massive destruction of the school’s library due to Tropical Storm Allison, that Wu focused on the need to protect materials through digitization.
Wu says she began to wonder: “Is there a better way for libraries to prepare society for a world in which there are a growing number of natural disasters?” she recalls. “There are so many risks to our collections, and society depends on long-term access for this information,” Wu says.
Wu developed the theory for a digitization program designed with copyright in mind. What came to be known as CDL, she says, strikes a balance between the interest of the users and copyright owners. A library can lend out only the number of copies that it has legitimately acquired, though the copy can be any format. The flexibility in format facilitates more effective access for a wide variety of users, including those who live remotely or have trouble physically coming to a library building, while also ensuring the preservation of content in situations like natural disasters.
After Houston, Wu worked at the Hofstra School of Law and Georgetown University Law Center. As both a library director and law professor, Wu says she has been well-positioned to advocate for CDL and reason with the skeptics.
“I haven’t heard a lot of substantive objections. I have heard fear, which is common and understandable anytime you are changing the status quo, but it is something that must be overcome for advancement.” says Wu. “In talking with others about CDL, I focus on what CDL is and what it is intended to accomplish, which pushes people to engage deeply instead of rejecting the idea out of fear. From my perspective, CDL is the purest form of balance in copyright that you are going to find in a world of technology, and that balance is difficult to deny when you examine CDL in detail.”
Kyle K. Courtney, the copyright advisor and program manager at the Harvard Library Office for Scholarly Communication, says from the first time he met Wu, he was inspired by her ideas and willingness to challenge norms. Her research was a major influence on Courtney’s work and career. Together, they co-authored a position statement on CDL.
“It is great to meet your heroes sometimes — and even better to be able to work with them side by side,” says Courtney. “She is not a theoretical scholar. This is what’s awesome: She puts the cutting-edge CDL copyright system to work. That’s why she’s a trailblazer in both words and action, putting libraries at the forefront in our field.”
Wu’s leadership has helped advance the collaborative work of libraries and enabled there to be more transparency in sharing information, says Courtney. He and Wu have presented on CDL at several conferences and discussed the concept with Congressional staff on Capitol Hill last year.
“She is one of the hardest working members of the library field I know,” Courtney says. “She’s oriented toward practical results and addresses 21st century challenges in multiple environments – public, private and academic. She is a person of remarkable integrity.”
Courtney says Wu’s recognition showcases what leaders in librarianship should aspire to: a successful record of progressive scholarship, influence on the next generation of librarians and a legacy of hard work that reflects an enthusiasm for libraries.
Sharing the story of CDL on Capitol Hill, Lila Bailey, policy counsel for the Internet Archive, says she was struck by Wu’s ability to connect with staffers. “Michelle explains things in such a clear, intuitive, practical way,” says Bailey, who also has collaborated with Wu on research. “She’s so competent and conscientious.”
Wu has been committed to spreading her knowledge of both academic and practical aspects of the CDL to librarians and policymakers across the country. “She is somebody who came up with a legal theory and spent her career creating a proof of concept for why this is important,” Bailey says. “The Internet Archive sets this very ambitious vision of universal access to all knowledge then it tries to live up to the vision. Michelle embodies this ethos of the Internet Archive to be the change you want to see in the world.”
In June, Wu retired from academia, but she continues to research and mentor emerging librarians. Too often, (outside of the sciences) academia gives more weight to the risk in innovation instead of imagining the opportunities that creative problem-solving can provide, but Wu says that attitude doesn’t serve the public in the best way.
“We can’t sit back and expect everyone automatically to understand the importance of libraries long term. We have to stand up for what we believe, advocate for it, and find solutions that better serve society in an ever-changing world.” Wu says.
When Marygrove College in Detroit decided to close its doors in 2019 due to financial pressures, the first question on the minds of many community members was: what about the library? Today, the entire Marygrove College community is celebrating the reopening of the Marygrove College Library in partnership with the Internet Archive.
Marygrove College’s roots go back to 1905 when it was started by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a progressive Catholic order known for its commitment to social justice. Founded as a women’s institution, it became co-ed and predominantly African American over time, changing with the demographics of its neighborhood in northwest Detroit.
The liberal arts college, which typically had an enrollment of less than 1,000, attracted students interested in teacher education and social work programs, as well as English, history, philosophy and religious studies. The college offered graduate programs and some alumni went on to become physicians, lawyers and scientists.
True to its mission, Marygrove often served students from marginalized communities with limited means. Changes in access to federal Pell grants hurt the institution’s finances, and enrollment dwindled in recent years.
“The college was deeply in debt. Like many small colleges, institutional scholarships don’t pay the bills. The school was borrowing to make payroll. It was not a good picture,” says Marygrove President Elizabeth Burns. “With great sorrow, the board voted in summer 2017 to close undergraduate programs.”
The institution tried to survive by offering only graduate programs – many online. But that model proved to be unsustainable. In December of 2019, Marygrove closed its doors for good.
“It was very difficult,” says Frank Rashid, who taught English at the college for 37 years and lives within a mile of the campus. “It was a great place to teach. Despite our size and obscurity, we had a strong faculty and great students.”
As the college emptied its buildings, the fate of Marygrove’s beloved library was up in the air. No other library was able to house the entire collection, which included more than 70,000 books and 3,000 journals, in addition to microfilm, maps, visual media, and more. The college explored selling the books, but buyers were only interested in portions of the collection. Even disposing of the library content would cost thousands of dollars that the college couldn’t afford.
Marygrove’s solution: Donate the entire library to the Internet Archive for digitization and preservation.
“We were able to preserve the entire collection that we had built over the decades and make it available to everyone,” Burns says.
“There was a sense that all was not lost,” Burns says. “The legacy of the collection will be available for ongoing education. That really helped ease the pain of the transition.”
The library had a rich collection of books in history (particularly primary sources on local Detroit studies and Michigan), English, philosophy, religious studies, social work, political science, economics, psychology, business and social justice.
“The library was the best kept secret at Marygrove,” says Brenda Bryant, who started the nation’s first master’s degree program in social justice at the college 20 years ago. While the closure of the building was heartbreaking, she says having the collection digitized provides access to its great array of nonfiction and fiction books (such as The God of Small Things by Arhundati Roy) , as well as films about social justice movements.
Byrant says the college was ahead of its time in recognizing the importance of studying these issues. With racial equity, immigration and other social justice issues so relevant today, she hopes people will take the opportunity to read about the history of prior movements.
The value of the collection extends well beyond the Marygrove community. Librarians from Wayne State University, also located in Detroit, share an admiration for Marygrove’s collection and decision to digitize.
“Marygrove has been fundamental for Detroit in educating first-generation, low-income college students and providing high quality education to the community,” says Alexandra Sarkcozy, a liaison librarian for history at Wayne State. “The librarians built a robust academic collection and took beautiful care of it. I think it’s wonderful that it was able to be preserved.”
And, as Wayne State thinks about how to lend out its own digital materials, it may consider Controlled Digital Lending as a model, adds Sarkcozy, which is how the Marygrove collections are being made available to users.
Using Controlled Digital Lending practices with the Marygrove collections—lending out a digital copy one at a time—felt like a responsible way to continue to provide access, says Burns. And rare materials that aren’t traditionally prioritized are not lost to history.
Rashid says he was initially reluctant to let go of the print materials, but realized that digital lending opened up the possibility of access around the globe. “We are trying to share resources with scholars and students elsewhere,” says Rashid, noting it also has the additional convenience of researchers being able to look up information from home.
The Archive hired local help to pack up the Marygrove books, load them onto trucks, and transport them to centers for storage and scanning. The empty library was repurposed as a lecture hall, sports facility and cafeteria for a new high school that now operates on the campus.
Mary Kickham-Samy served as the director of the library at Marygrove from 2017 until its closure in December 2019. She was glad to see the collection donated intact and thinks alumni, in particular, will enjoy browsing through the library. “It’s beautiful the way Internet Archive has captured the materials…It’s just a win-win situation,” said Kickham-Samy, who is grateful that community members and researchers everywhere will now have access to the collection.
“When I heard Marygrove was going to be closing, it broke my heart,” said Valerie Deering, a poet and 1972 graduate of Marygrove. Deering didn’t fully realize what it would mean to digitize the library until she started browsing the collection online. “Actually seeing it now—this was a stroke of genius. This Internet library stuff is a pretty good idea.”