by Theron Cosgrave, an educational specialist in school redesign and teacher training
Almost three months of pandemic-inspired school closures have made one thing painfully clear for educators: distance learning is a completely different ballgame than in-person teaching. Worries about classroom management and test prep have taken a temporary backseat to challenges with student WiFi access and cyber hygiene concerns like “zoomboming,” the colloquial term for when an uninvited guest appears in a video call.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the need for high-quality learning resources to engage students. Despite all its challenges, this time has fostered a renaissance of online tool sharing. In my school consulting practice I’ve been connecting educators with a variety of links to help ease the transition online, and out of all the digital resources I’ve seen, the National Emergency Library recently rose to the top of my list of the best tools for remote learning.
Using any internet-connected device, teachers and students can borrow free online digital books from the National Emergency Library’s massive collection. Here are some specific ways that educators can benefit from this tool:
Teachers can use the Library to connect students with many of the books that are currently locked away in shuttered classrooms and school libraries, including hundreds of titles found on Common Core reading lists. Need a copy of The Paper Crane to read aloud to your first graders during a video call? Done. Want your fourth graders to read the Christopher Paul Curtis story Bud, Not Buddy?Send them the link. Looking for a copy of Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee for your high school history class? The Library has that too.
At the university level, the National Emergency Library enables college instructors to conduct and assign research despite limited access to their own university collections. And while you may not teach at MIT or University of Oklahoma, you can borrow titles that these institutions have in their collections.
LIBRARIANS & LIBRARY TECHNICIANS
School libraries—particularly at the K-12 level—have struggled to transition their services online in such a short timeframe. Fortunately, the National Emergency Library can fill the gap. Librarians at the K-12 and college level can link the Library to their school websites and notify their teachers and students that books are still available through digital lending.
District and school-level leaders currently developing plans for reopening schools in the fall with social distancing practices in place can lean on the services of the National Emergency Library’s parent organization, the Internet Archive, to ensure students have full digital access to core texts. Schools that join the Archive’s Open Libraries initiative can be assured they have reliable library access in case of any possible school closures in the future.
Educators have plenty to worry about during these unprecedented times. Fortunately, with the help of the National Emergency Library, accessing engaging books is no longer one of them.
While people all over the world have been at home due to COVID-19, recent reports about library usage indicate they have turned to books for comfort and enjoyment. Our own site has seen an increase in traffic and bandwidth consumption, and usage of our digital library has increased as well. Given our current situation with COVID-19, it may be no surprise that certain titles have captured the reading public’s attention, such as Sylvia Browne’s “End of Days,” in which the author predicts “around 2020 a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread throughout the globe…”
The book has been available through the Internet Archive’s controlled digital lending library since 2014, but had virtually no checkouts or usage until it became “buzzy”—it was featured in a popular social media post in early March and since then, the preview of the page has been included in a number of popular web sites and publications. Because of this interest, the book continues to be among the top viewed at the Internet Archive right now. But interestingly enough, people aren’t checking the book out. They preview the one page with the timely prediction, and then they browse away from the book. This isn’t an isolated event—other books in our library have also seen dramatic increases in interest simply due to popular news.
In the case of “Wasted,” the book originally had a limited print run, so there were very few copies in libraries. It was a “buzzy” title—everyone wanted a copy, including both political parties, the media, and Justice Kavanaugh’s supporters and detractors. Because of the limited supply and high demand, book sellers were offering used copies for thousands of dollars online. It was essentially impossible to locate a copy.
Among those few libraries with a copy was Boston Public Library, which had one copy housed in their non-circulating research collection. Using their existing on-site Internet Archive scanning center, they scanned the book, returned the physical copy to the closed stacks, and made the digital copy available through controlled digital lending to one user at a time.
Where controlled digital lending didn’t work was meeting the immediate demand of a crushing media news cycle that wanted to read the book. Because there was only one physical copy of the book, only one person could checkout the digital copy and read it at a time, and with our standard 14 day circulation period, the digital book would circulate an estimated 30 times per year. Those who wanted to queue up to read the book could join a waitlist, just like at your public library. And they did. Within 24 hours of making the book available at archive.org, its waitlist had jumped to more than 400 people. In the nearly 18 months since, the waitlist topped out at more than 800 people, meaning that someone joining the list at its peak would be waiting more than 20 years for their turn to read.
But all of that changed when we launched the National Emergency Library which gave us an unexpected opportunity for an experiment. By suspending waitlists for our books, all of the users on the waitlist could check out the book without delay. We notified users by email, as is our norm, that they could now check out the book.
It turned out most users did not want to check out the book when they were eventually offered the opportunity. Some did check out the book, but few. In the week after the launch of the NEL, 50 copies were on loan. Following our previously reported circulation patterns, 90% of those borrows go stagnant within the first hour (most much faster), meaning that users stop interacting with the book, so there were may be closer to five actual readers of the book. Today, the book is not checked out by any users. This blog post will again raise interest in the book, and so it will likely have more borrows over the next week (the number likely depends on the reach of this post) before it again returns to a lower, post-buzz circulation level.
“End of Days” and “Wasted” aren’t unique. Current events will often trigger a fleetingly higher interest in older books on various topics. And so what does this mean? Here are some preliminary thoughts, with more to come in a subsequent blog post:
“Buzzy” titles have a short shelf life. Once the news cycle moves on, so does public interest. Though it numbered in the 800s, the waitlist for “Wasted” showed pent up, and ultimately expired, demand for the title, especially since the news story is now nearly 18 months old. Once waitlists were relaxed and all of those users could finally read the book, the vast majority didn’t. We expect a similar pattern to emerge around “End of Days” once our waitlists are restored.
People rarely read the book even after checking it out. When it comes to these buzzy titles most users just want to flip through to see the interesting bits and then move on because they’re not really interested in the subject of the book, just the news story. It’s a similar pattern to the users who come to our books through a citation in Wikipedia—they’re brought into our books through a link to a page, they read the page or two they need for context or verification, and then they’re out of the book. The difference with Wikipedia links, however, is that those links help users identify books that they can check out and dive into deeper if they’re working on a research project or term paper, so the motivation to engage with the book is stronger than for the average social media post.
As previously highlighted, two weeks after the NEL launch we posted early usage and circulation trends that we had observed. We plan to release an update on those trends and to report any additional findings about how people are using the NEL. We highlight these data so that our community can have a better understanding of what’s being used in the NEL and how it’s being accessed, so that we can build these considerations into future digital library infrastructures.
Library directors and staff are facing incredible challenges in meeting their community’s needs during this unprecedented time of library closure. As a recent article by NISO Director of Content, Jill O’Neill, points out “[o]ne take-away from this global pandemic might be the humble recognition that there are existing needs in the marketplace that are not satisfactorily served by current access models.” In the meantime, with the majority of the nation’s libraries closed, librarians are turning to a variety of currently available digital content resources to meet patron needs while their physical collections are unavailable for use.
One of the librarians leading the charge is Michael Blackwell, Director of St. Mary’s County Library, in coastal Maryland. Michael is active in a variety of eBook working groups at the state and national level, and champions the role of digital content in meeting the needs of the residents of his rural Maryland county. Another voice in this conversation is Lisa Radha Weaver, Director of Collections and Program Development at Hamilton Public Library, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. With a circulation of more than 7 million items each year, Hamilton Public Library serves its community of more than 750,000 residents through a variety of programs that are all currently suspended due to COVID-19. Similarly, Kelvin Watson, Director of Broward County Libraries, in southern Florida, is leading his staff and community through this remarkable moment in library history. Serving a population of nearly 2 million people, the Broward County Library system circulates more than 10 million items each year through its 38 branches, all of which are currently closed.
All three librarians took time from their hectic schedules to talk with the Internet Archive about their operations during closure, the role of digital content in meeting the needs of their patrons, and the value of digital libraries in the COVID-19 era.
Chris Freeland, Internet Archive: As of this writing your libraries are currently closed because of COVID-19. How are you reaching patrons while your libraries are shuttered?
Kelvin Watson, Director, Broward County Libraries (FL): All of the 38 physical locations of Broward County Library (BCL) closed at the end of the day on March 19, 2020, but library staff remain working to keep up with the public’s demand for its free online resources and remote reference services. With its customers confined at home, BCL is experiencing a surge in usage and new users of its digital resources.
As the threat of COVID-19’s spread increased in mid-March, BCL marketing staff launched a public-awareness campaign via social media posts and targeted ads, a virtual newsletter and customer emails to inform the community about its extensive collection of free digital content that can be accessed with a BCL Instant eCard.
The marketing efforts paid off. There has been an increase in Overdrive eBooks and eAudiobooks checkouts of 22% from March 2019 to March 2020 and a 68% rise in check-outs of eBooks from Axis 360, which offers titles for children and teens, a clear indication of how many youth in our community are accessing BCL materials for homework and entertainment during local safer-at-home mandates.
In addition to providing digital content, another way that BCL is engaging customers while its buildings are closed is through virtual outreach that replaces popular in-person library programs. These include video story times, like this reading by librarian Autumn Dec of the book Dragons Love Tacos, which has garnered 1.1k views on social media as well as librarian-led “Book Bites” book reviews. BCL is even planning a virtual version of their popular “Summer at Your Library” program, which will offer prizes and incentives as well as an online game board and activities for readers and learners of all ages.
Just like the Internet Archive, during this crisis, BCL is also expanding its scope by reaching out to customers in unexpected ways. Staff at BCL’s Creation Station makerspaces are using the library’s public 3D printers, sewing machines and other gear, to produce protective face coverings and using BCL’s 3D printers to make S-hooks (which helps face coverings fit comfortably) to distribute locally to healthcare professionals and first responders.
Michael Blackwell, Director, St. Mary’s County Library (MD): The COVID-19 pandemic has foregrounded the need to provide all types of library content virtually. We are doing weekly digital storytimes so that children can and their parents can have fun while practicing literacy-building activities. We are grateful to publishers such as Penguin Random House that have lifted restrictions on storytime reading of content online. We are doing online trivia contests. We are subscribing to additional online services, such as CreativeBug, which has videos about crafting. We are doing a weekly “Quaranzine” with writing and art submissions by our patrons.
One of the most important ways we are responding, however, is by providing additional digital content. We have added to the number of Hoopla checkouts per month and added content to OverDrive, RBDigital, and the DPLA Exchange. We are a small three branch system serving a county of some 113,000, however, and we do not have the funds to keep up with an increased demand, with downloads exceeding 33% in March and April what they did in January and February.
Lisa Radha Weaver, Director of Collections and Program Development, Hamilton Public Library: During this unprecedented time, Hamilton Public Library (HPL) staff is available by phone, email and online chat. Our website (hpl.ca) also offers 24/7 access to online programs and resources. While our branches are closed, HPL continues to connect customers with our Digital Collections including the National Emergency Library (NEL). Staff is also calling all customers aged 75+, 3D printing masks and sewing protective face coverings, offering online programs and discussion forums for all ages, launching our Hamilton Reads and Summer Reading programs early and donating our book sale collections to clients at our partner food banks.
Chris Freeland: Are your staff or patrons using the National Emergency Library while your libraries are closed? If so, what response are you getting?
Michael Blackwell: The Internet Archive provides another arrow in our quiver. Without additional cost, we can provide another source of eBooks that helps us match the depth and breadth of print books sitting idle on our shelves. Patron response has been sparse, but at least one person has commented with joy upon finding books from his childhood that he had not seen in years, that are otherwise completely unavailable in digital form, and that could be read only by ordering tattered copies from online bookstores. We are not using it to supplant our licensed content but to add richness that we otherwise could not. In a time when we cannot circulate our physical collection, when many are staying in place for their own health, when many are now unemployed, and when an economic recession might restrict people’s buying power and create ever greater reliance upon libraries, a source of information and reading delight is welcome to us and our patrons.
Lisa Radha Weaver: At HPL, we share the National Emergency Library with customers via our website, catalogue and during reference inquiries. Our reference desk is open seven days a week and staff Book an Appointment for those customers needing additional assistance. Customers are directed to the NEL for content that we cannot physically share at this time.
Chris Freeland: The value and role of digital libraries have never been more apparent, and yet, in an attempt to discredit the work of the Internet Archive and the National Emergency Library, critics are using a line of attack that the Internet Archive is “not a library.” As a professional librarian, how is this criticism harmful?
Michael Blackwell: Criticism that the Internet Archive is not a library is so absurd a claim as to be almost unworthy of a response and yet it should be of concern to all librarians. Attacks on libraries are of course commonplace these days. An online search will quickly reveal organized groups that would, for instance, like local government to seize control of libraries to make all collections and programs suit the outlook of a particular religion. My library has been attacked by such groups.
This attempt to subvert a library by saying it isn’t actually a library is unprecedented, as far as I know, but equally worthy of rejection as narrow-minded censorship, however fallacious it is. First, members of a group unaffiliated with libraries have no more business defining what a library is than librarians have any business saying who is or who is not an author. Second, what exactly is a library? In defining the term, the American Library Association, which surely has more right to define what a library is than Internet Archive’s critics, says the following: “The word ‘library’ seems to be used in so many different aspects now, from the brick-and-mortar public library to the digital library (https://libguides.ala.org/library-definition).
The Internet Archive is not a public library, of course, but in an increasingly digital world, collections of eBooks and other resources online have every claim to be called a library. Project Gutenberg describes itself as “a library of over 60,000 free eBooks” (https://www.gutenberg.org/). The word library is in the very name of the Digital Public Library of America, another registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Do these critics maintain that DPLA too is not a library? What about the increasingly important collections of local content digitized by public libraries, including books of local interest—are only the physical books sitting on shelves the actual “library”? Nonsense! Libraries must be free to collect in ways that give access to knowledge, and we must defend our mandate and the people’s right to literacy against any agency that would restrict our legitimate efforts to provide and preserve books.
Lisa Radha Weaver: As a public library, our mandate is to provide equal access to information and encourage lifelong learning. HPL staff members appreciate the opportunity to expand our support to customers during this pandemic. Digital libraries ensure customers continue to enjoy access to content. The Internet Archive offers increased access to research and information, regardless of format or choice of genre. Hamilton Public Library supports Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) and while physical collections are temporarily closed, customers need access in new ways. The National Emergency Library ensures vital, equitable access for everyone — just as public libraries will again provide when physical distancing and stay-at-home orders are lifted.
Kelvin Watson: Libraries are more than physical spaces and buildings – like the Internet Archive, our resources and services are virtual as well, serving our customers 24/7, everywhere and anywhere. Our strong virtual presence has been just as important as our brick-and-mortar storefronts – even more so in times of crisis, when people cannot visit a library in person for whatever reason.
During the COVID-19 crisis, with social distancing and stay-at-home mandates, we are again seeing just how essential our virtual services are. Just because customers can’t walk into a library it doesn’t mean they’re not using library services. They are, more than ever according to our statistics. For many customers, accessing library materials virtually is easier, faster and more efficient. Online or in person, Broward County Library is still a library, providing educational, informational and recreational resources constantly and consistently, to everyone in our community, all the time, at any place.
A call for help was sounded when it became clear that libraries were going to close indefinitely worldwide. The International Coalition of Library Consortia warned that the current system most libraries operate under was grossly insufficient to meet the crisis. We were in a unique position to respond and offer emergency relief to teachers and students around the world, so that’s what we did. We opened the National Emergency Library (NEL) on March 24, at a time UNESCO was reporting over 390 million students were being impacted. Today UNESCO reports that over 90% of the world’s student population is affected by school closures.
We were operating on pandemic time, but knew it wasn’t going to be the end of the conversation. Three days after we opened NEL, the Association of Research Libraries again urged publishers to maximize digital access. At this time we were busy providing this access to the best of our ability while beginning to respond to legitimate concerns from non-library stakeholders. We had designed an opt-out system for authors from the beginning, and our next big hurdle turned out to be working with university presses — many of whom we partner with — to address their concerns.
University presses react to NEL
In the hectic times of universities closing, we emailed our university press partners of the upcoming launch of NEL. The weekend after launching the NEL, we got a message from colleagues within the university press community saying some were not pleased with the NEL and the use of their published works within it. Responding quickly, we held an open community call the following Tuesday to hear from directors and other members of the university press community.
There’s no way around it – it was a tough call. While challenging, it also provided an opportunity for the Internet Archive to clarify why we had released the NEL—namely, to support students and educators with temporary access to a digital library while their schools and libraries are closed and their print collections are unavailable. We believed that NEL was necessary to provide educational access to teachers and students who were not in a position to double buy the books their communities had invested in but could not safely distribute. We have since had numerous teachers reach out to us and confirm that this is the case.
However, that doesn’t mean that other stakeholders do not matter to us. We listened to the concerns, and frankly displeasure, of important members of the university press community. John Sherer, Director of UNC Press, was one of these critics and was unhappy with what he and many within the university press community saw as a unilateral move by the Internet Archive.
But something changed during the community call. In hearing our openness to listen to the community and their concerns, Sherer saw a common path forward. “The goals you had articulated aligned so closely with many of our goals and the sense of mission that drives us at UNC Press. Namely, making high quality scholarship as widely available as possible.” Never one to rest idly, Sherer seized the moment, calculating that “if you all would consider a methodology I believe to be more equitable…I would pitch you on it and see if we could get to the common goal.”
And pitch he did. Along with Dean Smith, Director of Duke University Press, John drafted a Statement of Cooperation to help put structure around a publisher’s participation in the National Emergency Library. Both presses released blog posts (UNC Press here, Duke University Press here) to help contextualize why they disagreed with the process that the Internet Archive took in launching the NEL, and to describe why they ultimately decided to create the Statement of Cooperation so that they could support the National Emergency Library in a way they felt comfortable.
We appreciate the hard work of these university presses to find solutions to work together to provide students and researchers the resources they need during this difficult time. The statement they drafted is intended to be flexible and reusable. We hope that other publishers and presses will follow suit and sign on.
Why are university press books so important?
We consider our partnerships with university presses as a major milestone in making the NEL work for everyone to meet the immediate educational needs of those suffering from the pandemic. The Internet Archive has a long history of collaboration with the university press community, working with MIT Press, Cornell University Press, and others to digitize titles from their backlists.
We believe that university press books are a cornerstone of the NEL. University press books are evergreen, well-cited in Wikipedia, and are the foundations of much scholarship.The materials published by university presses represent the preeminent scholarly output of America’s research universities. They present peer-reviewed research and analysis of use to policymakers and scholars, and provide materials that help shape and inform a literate and informed culture. In short, university press books are exactly the kind of content that people need access to right now.
The road ahead
It is our wish that the NEL only last as long as it is needed, and that’s why we gave ourselves an end date. We will continue to work with stakeholders during this time to find solutions to make the NEL work the best it can under these emergency conditions. We are proud of our work on the NEL, but not so proud as to not accept thoughtful criticism. We encourage university presses, as well as other stakeholders, to work with us to continue to improve the NEL.
We also know that there are many difficulties facing all stakeholders due to the pandemic. Financial hardships are already being reported across the nation’s universities. University presses face challenges ahead in fulfilling their mission, but do so with an eye towards change. In considering the future, Sherer reflects, “UNC Press has survived world wars, depressions, recessions…and our building even burned to the ground once. We will endure. What we’re working on now is trying to understand what that new landscape might look like and to see if we can help define a values-driven publishing model that can thrive in that new reality.”
As Sherer later told us, “while we’re pleased that the NEL is making our books available at no cost to readers, I hope that the readers can remember that it wasn’t cost-less to produce those books.” We understand this concern. The Internet Archive uses a system called Controlled Digital Lending which leverages the number of loaned copies to the number of committed uncirculating physical copies and protects against redistribution by using the same digital rights management tools that publishers use; the temporary National Emergency Library, while using the same protections was built to address the suddenly and temporarily uncirculating books locked up in closed libraries. The original purchase of these books is the traditional way libraries support publishers and authors while also retaining the freedom to decide how to best serve our patrons. The NEL is a short term measure to meet the emergency needs of those impacted by school and library closures. We also welcome a continued dialog with publishers and authors on this issue.
The NEL will soon close and the world will continue to evolve. We need to look forward to how we can help meet the informational and educational needs of this changing world. The Internet Archive will continue to work with university presses and other stakeholders as we all adjust to a dominantly digital world. The Internet Archive is committed to working with presses and publishers to help describe and implement new values-driven publishing models that will be needed in this new world. The world’s digital learners need us all to succeed so they get to read the best humanity has created.
If you are an academic press or commercial publisher and would like to make your collections available through the National Emergency Library or work together to define a values-driven publishing model, please consider the Statement of Cooperation and reach out with additional questions.
Last Tuesday we launched a National Emergency Library—1.4M digitized books available to users without a waitlist—in response to the rolling wave of school and library closures that remain in place to date. We’ve received dozens of messages of thanks from teachers and school librarians, who can now help their students access books while their schools, school libraries, and public libraries are closed.
We’ve been asked why we suspended waitlists. On March 17, the American Library Association Executive Board took the extraordinary step to recommend that the nation’s libraries close in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. In doing so, for the first time in history, the entirety of the nation’s print collection housed in libraries is now unavailable, locked away indefinitely behind closed doors.
This is a tremendous and historic outage. According to IMLS FY17 Public Libraries survey (the last fiscal year for which data is publicly available), in FY17 there were more than 716 million physical books in US public libraries. Using the same data, which shows a 2-3% decline in collection holdings per year, we can estimate that public libraries have approximately 650 million books on their shelves in 2020. Right now, today, there are 650 million books that tax-paying citizens have paid to access that are sitting on shelves in closed libraries, inaccessible to them. And that’s just in public libraries.
And so, to meet this unprecedented need at a scale never before seen, we suspended waitlists on our lending collection. As we anticipated, critics including the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers have released statements (here and here) condemning the National Emergency Library and the Internet Archive. Both statements contain falsehoods that are being spread widely online. To counter the misinformation, we are addressing the most egregious points here and have also updated our FAQs.
One of the statements suggests you’ve acquired your books illegally. Is that true? No. The books in the National Emergency Library have been acquired through purchase or donation, just like a traditional library. The Internet Archive preserves and digitizes the books it owns and makes those scans available for users to borrow online, normally one at a time. That borrowing threshold has been suspended through June 30, 2020, or the end of the US national emergency.
Is the Internet Archive a library? Yes. The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity and is recognized as a library by the government.
What is the legal basis for Internet Archive’s digital lending during normal times? The concept and practice of controlled digital lending (CDL) has been around for about a decade. It is a lend-like-print system where the library loans out a digital version of a book it owns to one reader at a time, using the same technical protections that publishers use to prevent further redistribution. The legal doctrine underlying this system is fair use, as explained in the Position Statement on Controlled Digital Lending.
“Our principal legal argument for controlled digital lending is that fair use— an “equitable rule of reason”—permits libraries to do online what they have always done with physical collections under the first sale doctrine: lend books. The first sale doctrine, codified in Section 109 of the Copyright Act, provides that anyone who legally acquires a copyrighted work from the copyright holder receives the right to sell, display, or otherwise dispose of that particular copy, notwithstanding the interests of the copyright owner. This is how libraries loan books. Additionally, fair use ultimately asks, “whether the copyright law’s goal of promoting the Progress of Science and useful Arts would be better served by allowing the use than by preventing it.” In this case we believe it would be. Controlled digital lending as we conceive it is premised on the idea that libraries can embrace their traditional lending role to the digital environment. The system we propose maintains the market balance long-recognized by the courts and Congress as between rightsholders and libraries, and makes it possible for libraries to fulfill their “vital function in society” by enabling the lending of books to benefit the general learning, research, and intellectual enrichment of readers by allowing them limited and controlled digital access to materials online.”
Some have argued that the ReDigi case that held that commercially reselling iTunes music files is not a fair use “precludes” CDL. This is not true, and othershaveargued that this case actually makes the fair use case for CDL stronger.
How is the National Emergency Library different from the Internet Archive’s normal digital lending? Because libraries around the country and globe are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Internet Archive has suspended our waitlists temporarily. This means that multiple readers can access a digital book simultaneously, yet still by borrowing the book, meaning that it is returned after 2 weeks and cannot be redistributed.
Is the Internet Archive making these books available without restriction? No. Readers who borrow a book from the National Emergency Library get it for only two weeks, and their access is disabled unless they check it out again. Internet Archive also uses the same technical protections that publishers use on their ebook offerings in order to prevent additional copies from being made or redistributed.
What about those who say we’re stealing from authors & publishers? Libraries buy books or get them from donations and lend them out. This has been true and legal for centuries. The idea that this is stealing fundamentally misunderstands the role of libraries in the information ecosystem. As Professor Ariel Katz, in his paper Copyright, Exhaustion, and the Role of Libraries in the Ecosystem of Knowledgeexplains:
“Historically, libraries predate copyright, and the institutional role of libraries and institutions of higher learning in the “promotion of science” and the “encouragement of learning” was acknowledged before legislators decided to grant authors exclusive rights in their writings. The historical precedence of libraries and the legal recognition of their public function cannot determine every contemporary copyright question, but this historical fact is not devoid of legal consequence… As long as the copyright ecosystem has a public purpose, then some of the functions that libraries perform are not only fundamental but also indispensable for attaining this purpose. Therefore, the legal rules … that allow libraries to perform these functions remain, and will continue to be, as integral to the copyright system as the copyright itself.”
Do libraries have to ask authors or publishers to digitize their books? No. Digitizing books to make accessible copies available to the visually impaired is explicitly allowed under 17 USC 121 in the US and around the world under the Marrakesh Treaty. Further, US courts have held that it is fair use for libraries to digitize books for various additional purposes.
Have authors opted out? Yes, we’ve had authors opt out. We anticipated that would happen as well; in fact, we launched with clear instructions on how to opt out because we understand that authors and creators have been impacted by the same global pandemic that has shuttered libraries and left students without access to print books. Our takedowns are completed quickly and the submitter is notified via email.
Doesn’t my local library already provide access to all of these books? No. The Internet Archive has focused our collecting on books published between the 1920s and early 2000s, the vast majority of which don’t have a commercially available ebook. Our collection priorities have focused on the broad range of library books to support education and scholarship and have not focused on the latest best sellers that would be featured in a bookstore.
Further, there are approximately 650 million books in public libraries that are locked away and inaccessible during closures related to COVID-19. Many of these are print books that don’t have an ebook equivalent except for the version we’ve scanned. For those books, the only way for a patron to access them while their library is closed is through our scanned copy.
I’ve looked at the books and they’re just images of the pages. I get better ebooks from my public library. Yes, you do. The Internet Archive takes a picture of each page of its books, and then makes those page images available in an online book reader and encrypted PDFs. We also make encrypted EPUBs available, but they are based on uncorrected OCR, which has errors. The experience is inferior to what you’ve become accustomed to with Kindle devices. We are making an accessible facsimile of the printed book available to users, not a high quality EPUB like you would find with a modern ebook.
What will happen after June 30 or the end of the US national emergency? Waitlists will be suspended through June 30, 2020, or the end of the US national emergency, whichever is later. After that, the waitlists will be reimplemented thus limiting the number of borrowable copies to those physical books owned and not being lent.
In response to the global COVID-19 outbreak and related public health concerns, libraries across the nation are closing or scaling back service (see Fremont, Nebraska’s Keene Memorial Library closure; Seattle Public Library’s reduction in programs and bookmobile service). While Overdrive, Hoopla, and other streaming services provide patrons access to latest best sellers and popular titles, the long tail of reading and research materials available deep within a library’s print collection are often not available through these large commercial services. What this means is that when libraries face closures in times of crisis, patrons are left with access to only a fraction of the materials that the library holds in its collection.
Open Libraries helps individuals & libraries alike, in the following ways:
For individuals: Individual readers have access to all of the books that Internet Archive has digitized, including 1.4 million modern books. An Internet Archive library card is free and gives users the ability to check out 5 digitized books at a time. Browse our collection today and start reading immediately!
For libraries: Think of Open Libraries as your digital branch library. The 1.4 million books we’ve digitized are available for you to claim and lend to your patrons. The process is simple: join Open Libraries and then share your library catalog with us to find out which of your books we’ve already digitized. We’ll give you a link to those books that you can incorporate back into your catalog, helping your patrons locate these digitized books from within your library catalog and local search. Join today.
“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.
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.
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.
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
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?
“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
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.”
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.”