Category Archives: Lending Books

Preserving the legacy of a library when a college closes

I feel that, sadly, the College is closing, but the library is not. It is re-emerging in a different form.” —Mary Kickham-Samy, Director of Geschke Library, Marygrove College

In June of this year, Marygrove College announced that the graduate college, located in Detroit, would close on December 17. 

Original entrance to Marygrove College Geschke Library

Founded in 1905 by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary congregation (SSIHM, or IHM for short), the college has operated out of its Detroit campus for 92 years. Facing financial difficulties in 2017, the college closed its undergraduate programs, but continued to offer its graduate programs in education, human resource management, and social justice. Unfortunately the college was unable to attract the additional students required to keep programs in operation, and the decision to close was made this spring.

Beyond the challenges of what would happen with the grounds and buildings (which will continue to be used for educational purposes), a key question for administrators was “What will happen to the library?” With more than 70,000 books and nearly 3,000 journal volumes, the Geschke Library is a well-curated, world class collection with strengths in the humanities, education, and social justice. The collection reflects the strong historical and cultural influences of the city of Detroit, bringing a uniquely African-American perspective into the light. After a thorough review of possible options, Marygrove College President Dr. Elizabeth Burns and college administrators decided that the entirety of the library’s collection would be donated to the Internet Archive so that the materials could be digitized and made available to students and researchers all over the world.

View of Marygrove College Library Research & Technology Commons

I had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Burns and Mary Kickham-Samy, Director of Geschke Library, by email about the work they are doing to ensure that the legacy of Marygrove College will live on.  What follows is a poignant reflection on the library’s closure with an optimistic view towards its digital future, and what it means for the local Marygrove College community and scholars across the globe.

Chris Freeland: Dr. Burns, how did Marygrove College determine that Internet Archive was the best home for the collection?

Elizabeth Burns: The College explored several options for the disposition of the collection. We wanted to preserve as many books as possible and also be true to the IHM ideal of sustainability and care for the Earth (IHM is our sponsoring order of Catholic nuns, based in Monroe, MI). We didn’t want the majority of the volumes to end up in a landfill. The concept of both preserving the collection and having it available to all was endorsed by the Board. While some are grieving the removal of the book and materials, most welcome the idea of online availability. In this way, the collection that was carefully built over the years by Sisters Claudia and Anna Mary, along with other library directors, will live on. We are pleased to have this as a legacy.

What does it mean for students anywhere in the world that the library will continue to be available online?

Burns: Marygrove College has always been committed to education and outreach.  Our sponsoring congregation, the IHMs, have started schools all over the world. Our graduates have also taught in many parts of the world. To have the collection available to students means that the Marygrove mission will continue.  We hope that our collection, especially the Detroit collection and the Social Justice collection will be of use to scholars and to students of all ages.

How about from your perspective as a librarian, Mary? What does it mean for researchers that the library will still be available?

Mary Kickham-Sandy: Students everywhere will not only gain free access to a wealth of information and resources, but they may also gain a greater awareness of the legacy of Marygrove College, as well as the culture and history of Detroit.  Also, many local libraries in Michigan do not have the scope of books about Michigan that Marygrove has. So, by digitizing the Marygrove Library collection, Michigan students will have greater access to resources about their state.

Mary, as a fellow librarian myself, it’s difficult to consider closure.  What’s it like to close a library? 

Kickham-Samy: When I began my career as a librarian in 1998, I did not imagine that one day I would be responsible for closing a library, especially one as mature, robust, and cherished as the Geschke Library of Marygrove College. I feel that, sadly, the College is closing, but the library is not. It is re-emerging in a different form.

What considerations were you making about the collection?   

Kickham-Samy: I had two main concerns: the legacy of Marygrove College and the cultural importance of the Library to the neighborhood and the larger community of Detroit. A couple [of] community members expressed discomfort with the idea that the Library would be removed from the neighborhood and from the city.  I consulted with librarians at Wayne State University (WSU) about the possibility of housing the Detroit and Michigan books in the WSU library system. However, after some discussions, we reached a consensus that the collection would be more accessible in a digitized format.

Dr. Burns, I’m sure that Marygrove College’s closing was extremely difficult news for your alumni. What does it mean to alums that the library will continue to be available online?

Burns: When this possibility was announced at the all-class reunion in September, they were overjoyed. They feared that the collection would be lost forever. The fact that it will continue to be available as a living legacy is important to them.

Finally, to both of you, what is your hope for the collection?

Burns: My hope is that it will be useful for scholars and for students across the globe. I also hope that some will be curious about the College and the IHMs and will read the College’s history and understand the work done in Detroit for over 90 years. The work of education goes on and I’m grateful to the Internet Archive for allowing us to participate in this important endeavor.

Kickham-Samy: My hope is that the Internet Archive will elegantly display the depth, breadth, and beauty of the Marygrove College Library collection. I hope that those who view our collection will not only find the information they seek, but will also witness and appreciate the College mission to promote social justice through activism, a theme that runs through the development of the collection from its early days until its final one.

Postscript

A portion of Marygrove College Library received at Internet Archive

Last month a crew organized by the Internet Archive packed and moved the contents of the library into 5 shipping containers and sent them to our Physical Archive facilities in Richmond, California.  Yesterday the first container of books was sent to be digitized in our scanning facility, with the resulting digital books appearing online in 2020. While we mourn the closure of Marygrove College, we are grateful to play a role in preserving the legacy of Marygrove College and the Geschke Library for generations to come

Controlled Digital Lending Takes Center Stage at Library Leaders Forum

The following blog post was written by freelance writer Caralee Adams about the Internet Archive’s Library Leaders Forum, held on October 23 at San Francisco Public Library.

As enthusiasm grows for making library collections more accessible, the Internet Archive hosted an event to build a community of practice around Controlled Digital Lending (CDL). A diverse group gathered for the 2019 Library Leaders Forum Oct. 23 to share stories and strategies for libraries to expand their reach by lending out digital books based on their physical collections.

Why is this important?

Chris Freeland, Director of Open Libraries

“At the Internet Archive, we have a strong belief that everyone deserves to learn. We want to offer up the greatest digital library the Internet has ever seen to the world for free,” said Chris Freeland, Director of the Internet Archives’ Open Libraries program. “We think that everyone, regardless of where they live, should have ready access to a great library. More importantly, we think it should be available on phones and mobile devices that people turn to today. We want to make sure they have access to vetted, trusted information that’s held in libraries.”

The mantra of CDL: “Own one, loan one.” The idea is that a library can make a choice of lending either a physical copy or a digital version of a book.

The Internet Archive has been doing CDL since 2011, beginning with the Boston Public Library. Now two dozen other libraries of all sizes in the U.S. and Canada have embraced the model. Librarians from some of those institutions spoke about their passion for the practice at the forum.

The meeting provided an overview of the legal issues, policy considerations, and examples of CDL in action. The appeal to library leaders gathered was to endorse CDL, join Open Libraries, donate books to the Internet Archive for scanning, and volunteer to help with a new serials project.

Helping libraries see what’s possible

Library Leaders Forum attendees at San Francisco Public Library

Michael Lambert, City Librarian at the San Francisco Public Library, which hosted the event, shared his institution’s experience as an early partner with the Internet Archive on Open Libraries and CDL. Beginning with city government documents and historical materials, SFPL created an entire scanning department. To date, the library has digitized 13,000 books and documents with the Internet Archive, which have received over 7.5 million views. Since November 2018, SFPL has donated 30,000 copyrighted books to the Internet Archive as part of its community distribution program.

“Having this alternative virtual lending site as an option has been great,” Lambert said. ”Librarians have been able to confidently weed excess, outdated materials from our collection, secure in knowledge that the books will not disappear, but rather have a new life where people around the world can read and research the materials that SFPL has meticulously collected over the decades.”

The Internet Archive embodies library values: persistence, comprehensiveness and accessibility, said Lambert. “The Archive has become a crucial part of the broad library information eco-system,” he said. “They have provided examples that have challenged traditional libraries. The Internet Archive helps other libraries see what’s possible.”

Brewster Kahle, Internet Archive, and Dale Askey, University of Alberta

What Internet Archive Founder Brewster Kahle hopes is possible is digitization will allow more online sources to be linked to books, providing people trust information.

“If Wikipedia is the encyclopedia of the Internet, we are trying to build the library of the Internet,” Kahle explained at the forum. “Let’s make it really easy for people to go deeper.”

So far, the Internet Archive has turned 122,000 references on Wikipedia to digitized book links through its online library. Still, a century of books is missing after 1923 because of copyright laws. Kahle called on libraries to help fill that gap.

As part of that strategy, the Internet Archive is trying to institutionalize CDL, a practice that has been successfully working in a handful of libraries for eight years with no negative pushback. Yet, it has not been widely embraced. Kahle appealed to libraries to endorse CDL and donate books for scanning to address the larger goal of universal access to knowledge.

Framing the approach

The forum hosted experts to explain the legal underpinnings of CDL and discuss how the concept fits into the overall push to level the playing field for access to information.

Lila Bailey of the Internet Archive moderated a conversation with Kyle Courtney, Copyright Advisor at Harvard University, David Hansen, Associate University Librarian at Duke University, and Michelle Wu, Associate Dean for Library Services and Professor of Law at the Georgetown Law Library in Washington, D.C.

They have written a paper spelling out how libraries can practice CDL within the confines the fair use doctrine in current copyright law. Copyright law established in 1976 and dating back to 1950 does not reflect the digital reality today and it should allow flexibility for libraries to lend out one book at a time – no matter what the format – digital or print, they maintain.

John Bergmayer, Public Knowledge, talks with Lila Bailey, Internet Archive, and Mike Buschman, Washington State Library

To garner broad support for the concept of CDL, John Bergmayer of the nonprofit, Public Knowledge, spoke about the need to build relationships with lawmakers and educate them on the issue. This summer, he led a group engaged in CDL to The Hill in Washington, D.C. to brief members of Congress and their aides on the importance of expanding access to library materials through CDL.

“You have to make a project matter to the politicians,” explained Bergmayer. In the case of CDL, it’s about outlining the benefits of providing access to rural patrons, protecting materials from damage from disasters, saving libraries money, and helping K-12 school libraries, among others. “You want to get people to do the right thing for their reasons, not your reason — and show how your issue affects voters.”

Heather Joseph, Executive Director of the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), said CDL fits into the larger open agenda that advocates for unrestricted access to research. “It’s a vision based on opportunity,” said Joseph. “An old tradition and a new technology have converged to make possible an unprecedented public good.”

Now more than ever, in an era of “fake news,” and “alternative facts,” free, immediate access to high-quality vetted, source material is crucial for scholars, scientists, students, journalists, policymakers – everyone, she said.

“CDL is a pragmatic, incremental step towards open that operates in a way that’s respectful of libraries current operations and of copyright. It moves the needle towards open,” said Joseph. “CDL can contribute to collective movement towards a full vision of open access to knowledge.”

Opening Doors for Students

Lisa Petrides, Founder and CEO of ISKME

Making digital books more widely available to students has the potential for remedying inequities in education.  Nationwide, public school districts have lost 20 percent of their libraries and librarians in recent years. Lisa Petrides, founder of the non-profit Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, has embraced CDL as a model to build a Universal School Library (USL) and connect students – particularly from under-resources schools — to relevant materials that increasingly are digital.

“CDL holds the potential to broaden access to knowledge in public schools in a way that schools haven’t even begun to tap,” said Petrides, who is trying to curate an inclusive collection of 15,000 high-quality digitized books. “We are taking an equity lens in terms of diversity.”

Karen Lemmons, Detroit School of Arts

The Detroit School of Arts will be piloting USL and Librarian Karen Lemmons said she was excited to be able to offer her high school students books they can access while they are on the go. “This might give them an opportunity to read in between practices. They can pull out their phone and read a few pages. It’s mobile and flexible,” said Lemmon, noting that reading is closely linked to student achievement. “Our students really do want to be the best.”

Lemmons said she wants to be a model for other urban schools. “We want to be a driving force to get other libraries involved,” said Lemmons. “This is a data-driven district and we will need data to show reading more makes a difference in student performance.”

When the prestigious Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, recently was doing a $20 million renovation to its library, the Internet Archive approached it about digitizing their collection. The library already had its books packed on pallets, but instead of storing them decided to have them all scanned, explained Michael Barker, Director of Academy Research, Information and Library Services.

“We had this very well-intentioned idea to create a space for learners of the 21st century. It’s all good. It is a space of immense privilege. But it takes a vision to think well beyond our campus to say that belongs to every learner. That opportunity is to digitize the entire collection – that’s why we are all in,” said Barker of the school’s decision to participate in CDL “It goes to the heart of what Phillips was founded on. This school is for youth from every quarter and we try to live out that ideal as a private school for a public purpose.”

Next, Barker said he would like to see peer prep schools join the CDL model to further expand access to schools without the same resources.

CDL in Action

As the first library to use the CDL approach, the Boston Public Library recently extended its offerings by scanning its historic Alice Jordan Collection of 250,000 children’s books that were in storage. It has also digitized city directories, cookbooks and other fact-based documents in its catalog. Recently, it got permission from Boston-based publisher Houghton Mifflin to digitize its entire trade collection that is housed at BPL.

Expanding its CDL involvement, BPL’s Tom Blake challenged participants to bring another partner library next year to the forum.

“This the first time, I feel like it’s less about digitization and scanning and more about us, as librarians, leveraging not just our collections, but our historical collection policies with each other,” said Blake, who has been attending the library leaders forum for 10 years.

Michael Kostukovsky discusses Controlled Digital Lending

In discussing how to improve the CDL process, meeting participants suggested adjusting the amount of time users checked out titles and allowing for short-term loans. Perhaps smarter return and wait-list notifications could be developed to encourage faster processing of books. Others said re-branding Digital Rights Management (DRM) software with a different moniker to that would be more appealing to librarians.

In Sonoma County, California, Geoffrey Skinner said its 14 public library branches have just starting to participate in CDL. It first scanned documents in the history and genealogy library, then digitized its specialized wine library. 

“We are doing a massive weed of our closed stacks. By taking those material to the Internet Archive, we will have digital access back,” said Skinner. Having library materials online will benefit many of the county’s rural users who otherwise travel far to access the physical books and provide access for print-disabled patrons.

Justin Gardner, Special Collections Librarian at the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky, said digitizing 9,000 books in its collection has preserved rare and fragile documents, including books autographed by Helen Keller. Also, being located in Kentucky, it gives people interested in their materials from anywhere.

“We are becoming the go-to place for visual impairment materials,” said Gardner. Now these research documents are in an accessible form for people who have visual impairments and have never been able to read these materials before they were digitized.

Moving forward

Mike Buschman, Washington State Library

At the forum, Mike Buschman of the Washington State Library announced that the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) voted to endorse CDL. “It feels like it’s entering a new, good phase – a traction phase,” he said.

Kahle emphasized the need for CDL to be a community project and build a deeper collection. “We have to brave up,” he said.  “We just act in good faith. We aren’t pirates. We are trying to do the right thing.”

Chief Librarian and CEO at the Hamilton Public Library in Canada Paul Takala said his institution is an enthusiastic supporter of CDL. With a long history of innovation, moving forward with digitizing is the right move – despite the technical challenges – to make information more accessible to patrons, he said.

“Deeper collaboration is needed. It’s hard to get adequate resources,” said Takala. “As a library community, we are generally risk adverse. When we talk about CDL, I think we need to take a more balanced view….If we make what’s available in our community to other communities – and others make their collections available – then everyone wins.”

Dale Askey, Vice Provost at the University of Alberta, said he liked Takala’s challenge to pull more Canadian institutions past their risk aversion to embrace CDL. “It’s great to see people aligning behind these principles and taking this to scale,” said Askey, whose university has scanned an historic collection of education materials with zero negative impact. “There is a strong history and impulse at the university to do things with maximum benefit to the largest possible community.”

Princeton Theological Seminary is piloting CDL and it has created a secure area in its library for the physical collection, so that when a digital copy is checked out that the physical copy will reside there. Participating the program has great potential benefits for the seminary’s reach, according to Managing Director of the Library Evelyn Frangakis.

“The PTS comprehensive theological collection is in high demand and the CDL library allows increased accessibility to all users, including those with various print disabilities,” said Frangakis.  “I think CLD is gaining momentum. That’s really heartening for broad access to the materials that we are able to contribute to this program. It’s going to continue to grow.”

Ross Mounce, Director of Open Access Programmes at Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin in London, said he was encouraged by participation in the forum and said action points were clear and institutions can choose their level of engagement.

 “It’s nice seeing things moving forward. At the end of the day, it just makes sense,” said Mounce of CDL. “If you own a physical copy of a book, you should be able to loan a digital version of it. Libraries should be able to lend books.”

Added Wu of Georgetown: “I’m delighted there has been a lot more buy in in recent years. The voices and the participants are much more diverse. Libraries [like Phillips] are willing to go all in and that’s remarkable. It is true that if we get more of those, I think we will see a true movement across the nation.”

Fighting Misinformation Online

On Tuesday, the Internet Archive joined Public Knowledge, the Wikimedia Foundation and the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic from Berkeley Law to brief the Congressional Internet Caucus on efforts to combat misinformation online. Misinformation is a complex issue but one of the root causes is a lack of easy, reliable ways for Internet users to distinguish good information from bad, or authoritative sources from propaganda. The panel highlighted our recent work to weave books into Wikipedia articles, giving users the ability to dig deeper and fact check assertions in just one click.

We would like to thank the Congressional Internet Caucus Academy and Representative Anna Eshoo for sponsoring this conversation.

Weaving Books into the Web—Starting with Wikipedia

[announcement video, Wired]

The Internet Archive has transformed 130,000 references to books in Wikipedia into live links to 50,000 digitized Internet Archive books in several Wikipedia language editions including English, Greek, and Arabic. And we are just getting started. By working with Wikipedia communities and scanning more books, both users and robots will link many more book references directly into Internet Archive books. In these cases, diving deeper into a subject will be a single click.

Moriel Schottlender, Senior Software Engineer, Wikimedia Foundation, speech announcing this program

“I want this,” said Brewster Kahle’s neighbor Carmen Steele, age 15, “at school I am allowed to start with Wikipedia, but I need to quote the original books. This allows me to do this even in the middle of the night.”

For example, the Wikipedia article on Martin Luther King, Jr cites the book To Redeem the Soul of America, by Adam Fairclough. That citation now links directly to page 299 inside the digital version of the book provided by the Internet Archive. There are 66 cited and linked books on that article alone. 

In the Martin Luther King, Jr. article of Wikipedia, page references can now take you directly to the book.

Readers can see a couple of pages to preview the book and, if they want to read further, they can borrow the digital copy using Controlled Digital Lending in a way that’s analogous to how they borrow physical books from their local library.

“What has been written in books over many centuries is critical to informing a generation of digital learners,” said Brewster Kahle, Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive. “We hope to connect readers with books by weaving books into the fabric of the web itself, starting with Wikipedia.”

You can help accelerate these efforts by sponsoring books or funding the effort. It costs the Internet Archive about $20 to digitize and preserve a physical book in order to bring it to Internet readers. The goal is to bring another 4 million important books online over the next several years.  Please donate or contact us to help with this project.

From a presentation on October 23, 2019 by Moriel Schottlender, Tech lead at the Wikimedia Foundation.

“Together we can achieve Universal Access to All Knowledge,” said Mark Graham, Director of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. “One linked book, paper, web page, news article, music file, video and image at a time.”


Unlocking the Potential for Every High School Library: 2019 Internet Archive Hero Award

Announced today, Phillips Academy has received the Hero Award from the Internet Archive for its leadership in adopting controlled digital lending for school libraries. The Hero Award is presented annually to an organization that exhibits leadership in making its holdings available to digital learners all over the world, and when Phillips Academy was renovating its Oliver Wendell Holmes Library, librarian Michael Barker wanted to update more than the physical space. This was also an opportunity to bring the private preparatory high school up to speed digitally – and in the process, share its vast book collection with others.

Barker, Director of Academy Research, Information and Library Services, has embraced Controlled Digital Lending (CDL), where a library digitizes a book it owns and lends out one secured digital version to one user at a time. In this case, the Andover, Massachusetts school owns 80,000 books.

Michael Barker

“With the closure of so many high school libraries, this allows us to share the collection we’ve built up over 100 years with all other high schools,” Barker said. “I can’t think of any better way the library could contribute its private resources for a public purpose.”

Phillips, which has roughly 1,100 students in grades 9-12, has been active in the Digital Public Library of America. It has already digitized about 4,000 of its titles published prior to 1923.


With all the books already boxed up for the renovation, the school’s decision to expand its CDL project was clear: “There would never be a better time than now,” Barker said. This summer it shipped most of the remaining volumes to be digitized by Internet Archive at its scanning facility in the Philippines.

Sharing the cost of scanning and shipping with Internet Archive was critical to the digitization process happening, said Barker. The books are expected back early in 2020 and will be placed back on library shelves over spring break.

Rather than most books being on display, the renovated Phillips library includes more open space for collaboration. It was last updated in 1987 and was not wired for a world that included the Internet. Renovations began in early 2018 and the newly updated facility opened to students this fall.

Originally designed like a “book fortress,” Barker said the center of the library now has room for students to study together while some books are on shelves around the periphery. Most books are now in the attic and basement where they can be called up to lending.

“One local benefit of CDL is that students don’t necessarily need to call the book from the attic. With a digital version there is no delay in getting the book,” Barker said.

As Barker awaits the return of the book collection from the Philippines, he is tracking the shipment (which went on two separate ships and was insured). In the meantime, Phillips is preparing to share the news of its vast collection becoming open to students everywhere. Barker is excited to offer the school’s resources openly and said it’s particularly timely as school library budgets are being cut, making it hard for libraries to fulfill their mission.

“The truth of the matter is that some schools don’t have libraries anymore,” Barker said. “If other schools like us got involved in CDL in the same way and shared their copies, many public schools would not have to worry about their students having access to collections in the same way they might be doing now. I encourage others to explore it and jump in. It seems like it can only get stronger the more libraries that join.”

NOTE: Come meet Mike Barker and learn more about Phillips Academy when he speaks at Internet Archive’s World Night Market, Wednesday 10/23 from 5-10 PM.  Tickets available here.

Everyone Deserves to Learn

The nation’s K-12 school libraries are hurting. Although the student population is rising in many districts, the number of librarians and media specialists dropped by nearly 20 percent from 2000 to 2015. Budgets are being reduced and some schools are no longer able to afford their school librarians, or are simply closing their libraries altogether. The cuts are particularly deep in underserved communities.

Controlled Digital Lending (CDL), the digital equivalent of traditional library lending, holds the promise of broadening access to knowledge for public school libraries, according to Lisa Petrides, PhD, founder of the non-profit Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education. ISKME’s focus is to provide research, tools, and training to help democratize access to education through the practice of continuous learning and collaboration. Research has shown that well-resourced libraries matter, she noted.

Lisa Petrides

“When students don’t have access to school libraries, it impacts learning outcomes. It’s a dire situation in many districts across the country,” said Petrides. “Libraries and the librarians that serve them are intricately connected to pedagogy and curriculum, and are necessary to reinforce the basic tenets of learning, including problem-solving, curiosity, and exposure to new ways of thinking. The school library has been and continues to be a critical link for teaching and learning in our K-12 schools.”

In partnership with Internet Archive, Petrides has amassed a team of librarian partners to create the Universal School Library, a collection of digitized books that can serve as a lending library for those without access to a physical school library. A small grant is funding teams of school librarians working to curate 15,000 book titles. It’s a labor-intensive process selecting fiction and non-fiction titles for the core collection, while ensuring diverse viewpoints and voices are represented and included. A beta version of the  Universal School Library is now online at https://archive.org/details/uslprototype, and using CDL, the project team will work with states, districts, and schools to fill in where there are gaps. When the Universal School Library is officially launched in 2020, it will encompass all genres and reading levels, and across cultural, college, and career literacy.

“This has the potential to make a high-quality curated collection available for any student,” Petrides said. “It really is a democratization issue. CDL can be transformative for equal access to education in this country.”

NOTE: Come meet Lisa Petrides and learn more about the Universal School Library when she speaks at Internet Archive’s World Night Market, Wednesday 10/23 from 5-10 PM.  Tickets available here.

Closing the Access Gap in Rural Maryland

In southern Maryland, St. Mary’s County is 54 miles long and there are only three libraries.

“We have people living at one end who might be 25 miles away from a branch,” said Michael Blackwell, Director of the St. Mary’s County Library that operates in the small communities of Leonardtown, Charlotte Hall and Lexington Park.

Michael Blackwell

Yet, many of its rural and suburban residents do have cell phones and tablets. “People in this area are hungry for digital content. In surveys, they say there is not enough. Library digital use is growing, unlike library print use, which is very flat,” said Blackwell. “How to keep up with demand is a real challenge for us.”

That’s why Blackwell sees great promise in expanding the county’s digital offerings through Controlled Digital Lending, the digital equivalent of traditional library lending. CDL opens up access to rural patrons who may not otherwise be able to use the library because of transportation or other barriers. There are children whose parents work three jobs who need books for homework. There are shift workers who work during library hours. There are those for whom a physical trip to the library is simply not possible.

“I’m interested in CDL because a library the size of mine doesn’t have a lot of money,” Blackwell said. “By simply changing the format, we are getting the most out of the books we’ve already paid for. We are not trying to pick John Grisham’s pocket.”

Blackwell also notes that there are many works – including Pulitzer Prize winning books –
that publishers do not make available to libraries in digital form. This is an issue that is beyond rural access, it’s about no one having access at all to books that publishers choose not to provide digitally. For example, James Michener’s “Tales of the South Pacific,” is not available to libraries in e-book form through the major vendors. It is of interest as a story but also for revealing attitudes about human relations at the time of World War II. If a library wanted to circulate in e-book form, CDL would be the only option. It is, of course, the source for the musical, “South Pacific.”

Now, the St. Mary’s library has about 300,000 titles, including about 30,000 digital holdings. The library’s budget is about $3.8 million a year and the small funding increases usually go to salaries and health insurance, not leaving much for new acquisitions.

With high interest in digital content, CDL is being embraced in rural Maryland.

“We are working with the Internet Archive on a pilot to launch CDL titles through the Library Simplified, or ‘SimplyE,’ app,” added Blackwell. “A state grant is allowing us to deploy the app. Our patrons will be able to get all our e-book content, CDL and vendor-licensed, in one place. We’ll add quality content we can’t get in any other way at no cost other than storing our relevant print copies, ultimately expanding our offerings by thousands of titles. Our book hungry patrons will be much more likely to find a great title they want while they wait for the best sellers we can license.”

Protecting Unique Canadiana Works

Technology is enabling libraries in Canada to promote diversity, safeguard historic documents, and expand access — all while helping to save the planet.

The Hamilton Public Library in the Canadian province of Ontario has nearly two dozen branches. Providing digital content to users in geographically remote areas is one of many reasons that the library has recently embraced Controlled Digital Lending, the digital equivalent of traditional library lending.

Paul Takala,
Hamilton Public Library

“It’s such an environmentally friendly, cost effective way of making titles available,” said Paul Takala, CEO/Chief Librarian of the library. “If we digitize it, somebody doesn’t have to go to the library to get it and we don’t have to ship books around. It just makes a lot of sense.”

The library also has rare and fragile Canadiana content that is not available anywhere else or able to be physically loaned out. This includes history of the local area, land documents, first-hand accounts of settlers, a large collection of photographs and a unique collection of works published in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Lisa Weaver,
Hamilton Public Library

“Now we have the technology to share so many stories from so many voices through this platform to anybody 24/7, ” said Lisa Weaver, Director of Collections & Program Development at the library. “The preservation of books that CDL allows us to do and access that CDL allows us to provide is invaluable.”

When Hamilton joined Open Libraries, it was able to identify 53,000 books in its physical holdings that Internet Archive had already digitized. Those books were added to Open Libraries to increase lending counts for those titles. For example, the library digitized three titles that cover unique pieces of Canadian history: “The Trail of the Black Helmut” by G. Elmore Reamon (1957), “The Art of Northwest Coast Indians” by Robert Bruce Inverarity (1950) and “The Clockmaker” by Thomas Haliburton (1958), the first internationally best-selling author of fiction from what is now Canada. With the assistance of Internet Archive, Hamilton will later this year accelerate its scanning of older titles and some of its unique Canadiana collection to share beyond the library walls.

Researchers and genealogists have been particularly interested in discovering the digitized material. The new format allows users to access resources when they wish, during their commute, wherever they are, or even when the library is not physically open. The program also helps students who want to read classics that are not in copyright and now widely available.

“CDL helps us provide access to the broadest number of resources to the broadest number of Canadians,” Weaver said. “Having books in digital format also supports customers with print disabilities access the content.”

As more libraries partner with Internet Archive to make their collections available via CDL, more will be giving back and adding to the shared collection. “Part of the mission of public libraries is to educate residents about the history and richness of their communities,” said Takala. “It’s about making more items available to our customers. The benefits are clear.”

Academic Authors Find Larger Audience

For Robert Darnton, the benefit of Controlled Digital Lending to academic authors is obvious: More people can read their work.

As the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and the University Librarian, Emeritus at Harvard University, Darnton has long been a champion of broadening access to information. He also sees the value of making materials more widely available when it comes to his own research outputs.

Darnton has made two of his books, which are both still in print, freely available online: Mesmerism and the End of the Enlightenment in France (Harvard University Press, l968) and The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the Encyclopédie, l775-l800 (Harvard University Press, l979). Several other of his titles are available to borrow electronically through the Internet Archive’s Open Library.

Robert Darnton

Eventually, Darnton said he’d like all his titles to be digitized. “I feel it’s in my best interest to reach as large a public audience as I possibly can,” said Darnton. He believes the exposure online helps with the marketing of his books. Indeed, there was an increase in sales of the Mesmerism book once it was digitized.

Many academics don’t rely on books for income and it’s rare that royalties continue after a few years. “What authors want when that ceases is to reach readers. This is the best way to do it,” Darnton said. “CDL is a good system and a way to really improve people’s access to literature without harming anyone.”

In higher education, resources from one campus library to another can vary widely. Even at Harvard, Darnton said it’s not possible to make all books available — let alone small libraries with limited budgets. Libraries can benefit from interlibrary loans and digital lending can provide even greater relief from isolation for institutions without the means of expanding their collections.

“CDL can make an enormous difference, even for such privileged environments as Harvard,” Darnton said. “There is momentum behind CDL. It is not just the way to go, but the way things are going.”

Unlocking Marooned Assets Through Digitization

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.”

John Chrastka,
EveryLibrary

“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.”