Category Archives: Education Archive

Helping Ukrainian Scholars, One Book at a Time

The Internet Archive is proud to partner with Better World Books to support Ukrainian students and scholars. With a $1 donation at checkout during your purchase at betterworldbooks.com, you will help provide verifiable information to Ukrainian scholars all over the world through Wikipedia.

Since 2019, the Internet Archive has worked with the Wikipedia community to strengthen citations to published literature. Working in collaboration with Wikipedians and data scientists, Internet Archive has linked hundreds of thousands of citations in Wikipedia to books in our collection, offering Wikipedia editors and readers single-click access to the verifiable facts contained within libraries. 

Recently, our engineers analyzed the citations in the Ukrainian-language Wikipedia, and were able to connect citations to more than 17,000 books that have already been digitized by the Internet Archive, such as the page for Геноміка (English translation: Genomics), which links to a science textbook published in 2002. Through this work, we discovered that there are more than 25,000 additional books that we don’t have in our collection—and that’s where you can help! 

Now through the end of June, when you make a $1 donation at checkout during your purchase at betterworldbooks.com, your donation will go to acquire books that are cited in the Ukrainian-language Wikipedia. Books acquired will be donated to Internet Archive for digitization and preservation. Once digitized, the books will be linked from their citations in Wikipedia, offering readers the ability to check facts in published literature. Books will be available for borrowing by one person at a time at archive.org, and will also be available for scholars to request via interlibrary loan. With your help, we can ensure that Ukrainian scholars and people studying Ukraine have access to authoritative, factual information about Ukrainian history and culture. 

Thank you for making a difference by buying books from Better World Books and helping Ukrainian students and scholars with your donation.

Meet the Librarians: Alexis Rossi, Media & Access

To celebrate National Library Week 2022, we are taking readers behind the scenes to Meet the Librarians who work at the Internet Archive and in associated programs.


Alexis Rossi has always loved books and connecting others with information. After receiving her undergraduate degree in English and creative writing, she became a book editor and then worked in online news. 

Alexis Rossi

In 2006, Rossi joined the staff of the Internet Archive. She was working on the launch of the Open Library project when she recognized the need to learn more about how to best organize materials. She enrolled at San Jose State University and earned her Master’s of Library and Information Science in 2010.

“It gave me a better grasp of how to hierarchically organize information in a way that is sensible and useful to other libraries,” Rossi said. “It also gave me better familiarity with how other more traditional libraries actually work—the types of data and systems they use.”

Rossi concentrated on web interfaces for library information, understanding digital metadata, and how to operate as a digital librarian. In addition to overseeing the Open Library project, at the Internet Archive, Rossi managed a revamp of the organization’s website, ran the Wayback Machine for four years, founded the webwide crawling program, and is currently a librarian and director of media & access.

“One of the themes of my life is trying to empower people to do whatever they want to do,” said Rossi, who grew up in Monterey, California, and now lives in San Francisco. “Giving people the resources to teach themselves—whatever they want to learn—is my driving force.”

“Giving people the resources to teach themselves—whatever they want to learn—is my driving force.”

Alexis Rossi, Media & Access

Rossi acknowledges she is privileged to have means to avail herself to an abundance of information, while many in other parts of the world do not. There are so many societal problems she cannot solve, Rossi said, but she believes her work is making a contribution.  

“We can build a library that allows people to access information for free, wherever they are, and however they can get to it, in whatever way. That, to me, is incredibly important,” Rossi said. It’s also rewarding to help patrons discover new information and recover materials they may have thought were lost, she added.

When she’s not working, Rossi enjoys making funky jewelry and elaborate cakes (a skill she learned on YouTube).

Among the millions of items and collections in the Internet Archive, what is Rossi’s favorite? Video and audio recordings of her dad, now 73, playing the piano, organ and accordion: “It’s just so good. It’s such a perfect little piece of history.”

The Wikimedian On a Mission to Connect Everything

From her home in Wellington City, New Zealand, Siobhan Leachman is devoted to doing what she can to make it easier for the public to access information about scientific discoveries. In particular, she wants to highlight the contributions of women in science.

Wikimedian Siobhan Leachman, taken at the 2019 Wellington Botanic Garden BioBlitz. Source

Leachman is a volunteer Wikimedian, digital curator, and citizen scientist. She uses open content to create open content. Her mission in life: To connect everything. And in doing so, she relies on the Internet Archive—and adds to its resources. 

The Wayback Machine is vital to Leachman’s work, which focuses on putting reference citations in Wikidata or Wikipedia. If she comes across a broken link in her research, the Wayback Machine is her go-to source to recover it. As Leachman edits an article and inserts the digital URLs, she also saves her work through the Internet Archive for others. 

“It’s part of my workflow and just takes a couple of minutes,” she said of sharing the references she finds with the Wayback Machine. “It means the information is there in perpetuity. Five years down the road, what I was using as a reference is still there—rather than worrying about the link disappearing into the ether.”

Leachman got started as a digital volunteer for the Smithsonian transcribing journals. “I just fell in love with doing it,” she said. “I’d end up going down these research rabbit holes, finding out about the people and I’d want to know more.”  

In her research, Leachman has gravitated to natural history, learning about different species and wanting to preserve knowledge about New Zealand’s biodiversity. She reviewed diaries of scientists collecting specimens and was spurred to do more research about their lives. 

Leachman uncovered many women who had made contributions, but whose stories were not chronicled. One  of the scientists she’s researched is Winifred Chase, an American who participated in a botanical expedition to the South Pacific in 1909 with two other women. Leachman helped trace lantern slides created by Chase on the journey to New Zealand, which she incorporated into her Wikipedia entry on Chase’s life.

To complete the profiles of the scientists she’s researching, Leachman tracks down information about their lives and work through genealogy sites, as well as year books and natural history society journals found in the Internet Archive and borrowed via her Internet Archive account. “It’s absolutely thrilling. I love the stories,” she said of her research. “It’s as if you are reaching across time.” Leachman pieces together details and writes articles about female scientists, and in doing so, has become an advocate for open access.

“I’m keen on showing that women have contributed to science forever. It’s just not well documented,” said Leachman, who found many of the subjects she’s covered were amateur botanists or entomologists. “They’ve done a lot of work, but it’s like me—unpaid, a hobby. But they still contributed to science.”

Although some did not have university qualifications, women played a role over the years, said Leachman, and it’s important they get the recognition they deserve.

She often links her findings to the Biodiversity Heritage Library, a worldwide consortium of natural history, botanical, research, and national libraries working together to digitize the natural history literature held in their collections and make it freely available online. The Internet Archive partners with BHL and its member libraries by providing digitization, storage and access for scanned books.

Closer to home, the New Zealand National Library recently faced a dilemma about what to do with low-circulating physical material it no longer had the space to store. Leachman applauded the Library’s initial plans to donate 600,000 excess books to the Internet Archive, but laments the announcement this week that the donation is on pause. Once digitized, the books would have been accessible to anyone through Controlled Digital Lending, and could have been linked to Wikipedia. In Leachman’s view, the donation and digitization of these books would greatly improve access to the knowledge held within these publications for the benefit of all—not just New Zealanders, but for the world. She is hopeful that this hiatus will be short-lived and that the National Library will soon be sending those books to the Internet Archive for the good of all.

Added Leachman: “The Internet Archive rocks my world. I just love it. It’s so easy to get what you need. I just think it’s amazing.”

Access to Rare Historical Materials Makes an Ocean of Difference for Stanford Professor

The kind of materials that Stanford English professor Margaret Cohen uses in her work, including the history of ocean travel in the period known as the “Age of Sail,” can be difficult to find.

Professor Margaret Cohen, Andrew B. Hammond Professor of French Language, Literature, and Civilization and Director, Center for the Study of the Novel at Stanford University.

Books and illustrations from the 18th and 19th centuries needed in her research and teaching are often tucked away in rare book collections. For about five years, Cohen has been turning to the Internet Archive for help. And that access was even more critical during the pandemic when physical libraries were closed.

“It’s really enriched the arguments I can make about cultural history,” Cohen said. “The availability of documents and the very intensive work of tracking these down has become so much easier. The Internet Archive is a very user-friendly tool.”

The Biodiversity Heritage Library has been a resource to Cohen in teaching her English class, Imagining the Ocean. She has discovered manuals from Philip Henry Gosse, who created the first public aquarium, envisioning them as beautiful ocean gardens.  Cohen also shares her screen with students to discuss drawings of the sails, seashore and sea-anemones from the Victorian Age that she accesses through the Archive.

Actinologia britannica, 1860, Plate V.

“Access to the history of science is useful to me. I’m a literature professor, but the imagination spans across different areas,” said Cohen, the Andrew B. Hammond Professor of French Language, Literature, and Civilization and Director, Center for the Study of the Novel.

In her own research of oceanic studies, Cohen explores the importance of diversity and reality in marine environments. She tapped into the Internet Archive to fact-check information for A Cultural History of the Sea, (Bloomsbury, April 2021), a six-volume series that she edited chronicling the vital role oceans have played over time.

In researching her upcoming book, The Underwater Eye: How the Movie Camera Opened the Depths and Unleashed New Realms of Fantasy to be published by Princeton University Press, Cohen said the Wayback Machine was critical in confirming sources on websites that were no longer live.

Punch, 1879, Vol 76

The Sci-Fi/Horror collection of the Internet Archive has been useful to Cohen in teaching a course on Gothic film—especially since YouTube recently took down many of its films in that genre, she said.

Much of the material Cohen is looking for is in the public domain (such as Punch, a satirical British magazine that dates back to the mid-1800s ) but the documents are fragile because of their age. She has also  appreciated being able to borrow classic books of literary criticism, such as the collection on novel studies that supports her graduate course, Genres of the Novel. 

 “People’s time is limited and having access to this material facilitates scholarship,” Cohen said of the benefits of digitized documents. “I understand why publishers need to make money and I publish myself, but free access to information, particularly for nonprofit use, is a gift.”

Graduate Student: Internet Archive an “absolutely indispensable resource”

Although Casey Patterson spent much of the COVID-19 lockdown in a dank San Francisco basement apartment, he says he felt lucky in many ways.

The graduate student in English from Stanford University stayed healthy and—despite not having physical access to a library—was able to research his dissertation, teach classes, and prepare for job interviews. This was possible because of online access to materials through the Internet Archive.

Graduate student and educator, Casey Patterson

Patterson, who is entering the sixth year of his doctoral program, offered to teach an online African American literature class to undergraduates as soon as COVID-19 shut down the campus and the university shifted to virtual instruction.

“I just felt a degree of duty to sign up for a lot of teaching. I wanted to be able to support students and knew the transition to online education was going to be rocky,” said Patterson, who also taught an Intro to Black Studies course during the pandemic. “It was chaotic. Obviously, we had a really tough time trying to figure out how to keep students engaged and make education a humane process.”

Instead of expecting students to buy several books, and without the ability for them to check out books in a library, Patterson turned to the Internet Archive. Patterson found works of Black critics such as Toni Morrison and C.L.R. James and their writings about 19th century authors Edgar Allen Poe and Herman Melville to use in class. He downloaded classics including Moby Dick and Huckleberry Finn to the Canvas learning management system and made them immediately available to students.

“Using the Internet Archive, I could lay hands on basically everything I needed. It was an absolutely indispensable resource at the time.”

Casey Patterson, graduate student

“It’s super helpful when you’re asking students to read 10 short passages from three different novels,” Patterson said of using the Internet Archive. “It would be cruel to ask them to buy all of the books or track them down to the library. This way you put them right at the students’ fingertips.”

Patterson also relied on text from the Internet Archive for his own research. For his dissertation, he is examining the role of educational history as a way of understanding African American literary studies and the institutionalization of Black studies as a discipline.

This spring, he interviewed for an academic job in which he was asked to prepare a lesson plan syllabus for a teaching demonstration. Having access to The Book of American Negro Poetry, works of African-American poet Phillis Wheatley, and essays by Alice Walker enabled Patterson to put together materials from the convenience of his apartment on a tight deadline.

Selection of poems by Georgia Douglas Johnson from “The Book of American Negro Poetry” (1922).

“Using the Internet Archive, I could lay hands on basically everything I needed,” Patterson said. “It was an absolutely indispensable resource at the time,” he says.

In the summer of 2019, Patterson had used the Internet Archive in his Fandom research, another area of interest. He’d run across a citation to a website that was no longer available online and was able to track it down through the Wayback Machine. But since the pandemic, Patterson says he’s come to value the Internet Archive for its collection of primary sources.

“Knowledge is for everybody. The more we can do to break down the barriers that make it inaccessible, the better off everyone is,” said Patterson. “The Internet Archive is one great example of how we can do that almost with a click of a button.”

Reading Online Books a “Highlight” for Students During Pandemic

Motivating students to stay engaged with online instruction can take some creativity.

Working at a special education learning center in Los Angeles, Luca Messarra found the promise of choosing a book to read for fun after a lesson kept his 9- to 11-year-old kids going. Although access to physical books was limited during the pandemic, he found digital versions in the Internet Archive that made all the difference.

Educator and graduate student Luca Messarra.

Messarra’s individual work with students moved online in March 2020, in the early days of the pandemic. He continued to help them learn to read and write by doing drills remotely, using online instruction materials provided by the learning center. It did not have access to digital works of fiction, but Messarra says those were the books that most excited the students.

“That was the most fun because it was an opportunity for them to see the fruits of their labor. They could read a book, finally,” says the 25-year-old who lives in Palo Alto. “It’s far more entertaining to read a book than to do drills over and over again. That was the highlight for a lot of students—to finally be able to read a book of their own choosing.”

Since wrapping up his job at the learning center, Messarra has been enrolled in a graduate English program at Stanford University where he is specializing in digital humanities and postcolonialism.

Looking back on his teaching experience during the pandemic, Messarra says he values the resources from the Internet Archive. “It was incredibly helpful and quite essential to boost the morale of students. They were bored and frustrated because of the pandemic,” he says. “For one of my students, it was his goal to read Harry Potter. Once he was able to read it, he was super excited and eventually bought the book because he was having such a good time.”

Back to School with the Internet Archive: Fall 2021

Back in March 2020, teachers were asking themselves a nearly unthinkable question: “How are we going to get books in students’ hands with our schools & libraries closed?” We’ve heard from hundreds of teachers about the challenges they faced in connecting remote learners with books during COVID. Here is their story:

And here we are in August of 2021, with another school year about to start, and educators are still asking this same question. As a nonprofit dedicated to Universal Access to All Knowledge, the Internet Archive provides a number of free resources for parents, students, teachers, and librarians around the world. Check out these tools for remote learning:

Curated Collections

  • Our site is packed with free, kid-friendly learning resources
  • Looking for ways to bring diverse representation into your classroom reading? Find books that support the LGBT+ community in Open Library.
  • In 2015, ten-year-old Marley Dias set out to increase representation of books in which black girls are the main character with her #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign. Inspired by Marley, we want to support schools to make learning more inclusive. Find more than 300 of the curated titles in our library. 

Lesson Plans

  • Looking for lesson plans? Browse our collection to find detailed notes on hundreds of books and themes this summer, including Gulliver’s Travels and Don Quixote.
  • Do your students struggle with math? Online tutor The Math Sorcerer has put together a list of math books and resources for self-studying, covering a range of topics and abilities. Borrow the books and help your students gain confidence with math.

Tips for Using Our Library

How long can I borrow a book? How many books can I check out at once? Find all the information you need to know about borrowing books from the lending library in our online tutorials and get reading!

Learn More

Follow #LearnWithIA on Twitter throughout the month of August for additional tips & resources!

University Professor Leverages 78rpm Record Collection From the Internet Archive for Student Podcasts

Examples of music & musicians covered by The Phono Project include, from left: John Lee Hooker, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Johnny Cash

When professor Jason Luther wants students in his Intro to Writing Arts class to learn about multimodal composition, he has them go to the Internet Archive for inspiration.

Students peruse 78rpm records going back to the early 20th century to find just the right one for their assignment. There is no lack of material with more than 300,000 recordings  from 1898 through the 1950s preserved. They are available to the public because of the collaborative Great 78 Project.

Although the students are enrolled at Rowan University in New Jersey, many are participating remotely from their homes this year because of the pandemic, and the materials are conveniently available digitally to them from anywhere.

Professor Jason Luther of The Phono Project.

“If the [Great 78 Project] didn’t exist, I don’t think I would have this curriculum at all,” said Luther, assistant professor for Writing Arts in the Ric Edelman College of Communication & Creative Arts at Rowan. “What I really like is the research challenge. It’s really powerful. So many times students have recovered the lost histories of these songs.”

For The Phono Project, Rowan students create podcasts and social media posts about recordings in the Archive’s 78s collection. They also tap into primary sources on the Archive to write the history of the songs. They can write about the stories behind songs like the Billie Holiday classic “God Bless the Child,” or John Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillen” from 1948. Many gravitate to artists like Elvis Presley or Frank Sinatra, but Luther tries to get them to branch out—especially now that there are more than 200 stories in the project’s collection.

Luther developed the project in 2018 as part of the “Technologies and Future of Writing” module in the writing course. Students have just eight classes to complete the 1-3 minute podcasts, in which they learn to master a mix of audio tools and editing skills using Audacity and WordPress. The course covers issues of compatibility and ownership, along with instruction on the economy of writing like a critic about lyrics and culture. For one recent class session, he invited Liz Rosenberg of the Archive to be a guest speaker and talk about the organization’s work and the Great 78 Project.

In the future, Luther said he would like to find more ways to incorporate some of the Archive’s collection into his curriculum. For instance, he may have students use primary source documents from independent publishers over time to craft something tangible, such as an actual history from those materials that could be passed along. “That’s one of the neat things about accretion,” he said. “We have the creativity, but then there’s also documents on the Archive that are helping us understand the 78s themselves. It’s such a vast resource.”

Visit The Phono Project.

***

Incorporating materials from the Internet Archive into your course curriculum is easy. Each semester we hear from instructors doing so worldwide. Let us know how you are weaving Internet Archive media into your classes by writing to us at info@archive.org.

Internet Archive’s Modern Book Collection Now Tops 2 Million Volumes

The Internet Archive has reached a new milestone: 2 million. That’s how many modern books are now in its lending collection—available free to the public to borrow at any time, even from home.

“We are going strong,” said Chris Freeland, a librarian at the Internet Archive and director of the Open Libraries program. “We are making books available that people need access to online, and our patrons are really invested. We are doing a library’s work in the digital era.”

The lending collection is an encyclopedic mix of purchased books, ebooks, and donations from individuals, organizations, and institutions. It has been curated by Freeland and other librarians at the Internet Archive according to a prioritized wish list that has guided collection development. The collection has been purpose-built to reach a wide base of both public and academic library patrons, and to contain books that people want to read and access online—titles that are widely held by libraries, cited in Wikipedia and frequently assigned on syllabi and course reading lists.

“The Internet Archive is trying to achieve a collection reflective of great research and public libraries like the Boston Public Library,” said Brewster Kahle, digital librarian and founder of the Internet Archive, who began building the diverse library more than 20 years ago.

“Libraries from around the world have been contributing books so that we can make sure the digital generation has access to the best knowledge ever written,” Kahle said. “These wide ranging collections include books curated by educators, librarians and individuals, that they see are critical to educating an informed populace at a time of massive disinformation and misinformation.”

The 2 million modern books are part of the Archive’s larger collection of 28 million texts that include older books in the public domain, magazines, and documents. Beyond texts, millions of movies, television news programs, images, live music concerts, and other sound recordings are also available, as well as more than 500 billion web pages that have been archived by the Wayback Machine. Nearly 1.5 million unique patrons use the Internet Archive each day, and about 17,000 items are uploaded daily.

Presenting the (representative) 2 millionth book

Every day about 3,500 books are digitized in one of 18 digitization centers operated by the Archive worldwide. While there’s no exact way of identifying a singular 2 millionth book, the Internet Archive has chosen a representative title that helped push past the benchmark to highlight why its collection is so useful to readers and researchers online.

On December 31, The dictionary of costume by R. Turner Wilcox was scanned and added to the Archive, putting the collection over the 2 million mark. The book was first published in 1969 and reprinted throughout the 1990s, but is now no longer in print or widely held by libraries. This particular book was donated to Better World Books via a book bank just outside of London in August 2020, then made its way to the Internet Archive for preservation and digitization. 

“The dictionary of costume” by R. Turner Wilcox, now available for borrowing at archive.org.

As expected from the title, the book is a dictionary of terms associated with costumes, textiles and fashion, and was compiled by an expert, Wilcox, the fashion editor of Women’s Wear Daily from 1910 to 1915. Given its authoritative content, the book made it onto the Archive’s wish list because it is frequently cited in Wikipedia, including on pages like Petticoat and Gown

Now that the book has been digitized, Wikipedia editors can update citations to the book and include a direct link to the cited page. For example, users reading the Petticoat page can see that page 267 of the book has been used to substantiate the claim that both men & women wore a longer underskirt called a “petticote” in the fourteenth century. Clicking on that reference will take users directly to page 267 in The dictionary of costume where they can read the dictionary entry for petticoat and verify that information for themselves. 

Screenshots showing how Wikipedia users can verify references that cite “The dictionary of costume” with a single click.

An additional reason why this work is important is that there is no commercial ebook available for The dictionary of costume. This book is one of the millions of titles that reached the end of its publishing lifecycle in the 20th century, so there is no electronic version available for purchase. That means that the only way of accessing this book online and verifying these citations in Wikipedia—doing the kind of research that students of all ages perform in our connected world—is through a scanned copy, such as the one now available at the Internet Archive. 

Donations play an important role

Increasingly, the Archive is preserving many books that would otherwise be lost to history or the trash bin.

In recent years, the Internet Archive has received donations of entire library collections. Marygrove College gave more than 70,000 books and nearly 3,000 journal volumes for digitization and preservation in 2019 after the small liberal arts college in Detroit closed. The well-curated collection, known for its social justice, education and humanities holdings, is now available online at https://archive.org/details/marygrovecollege.

Several seminaries have donated substantial or complete collections to the Archive to preserve items or to give them a new life as their libraries were being moved or downsized. Digital access is now available for items from the Claremont School of Theology, Hope International University, Evangelical Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary

Just like The dictionary of costume, many of the books supplied for digitization come to the Archive from Better World Books. In its partnership over the past 10 years, the online book seller has donated millions of books to be digitized and preserved by the Archive. Better World Books acquires books from thousands of libraries, book suppliers, and through a network of book donation drop boxes (known as “book banks” in the UK), and if a title is not suitable for resale and it’s on the Archive’s wish list, the book is set aside for donation.  

“We view our role as helping maximize the life cycle and value of each and every single book that a library client, book supplier or donor entrusts to us,” said Dustin Holland, president and chief executive officer of Better World Books. “We make every effort to make books available to readers and keep books in the reading cycle and out of the recycle stream. Our partnership with the Internet Archive makes all this possible.”

The Archive provides another channel for customers to find materials, Holland added.

“We view archive.org as a way of discovering and accessing books,” said Holland. “Once a book is discoverable, the more interest you are going to create in that book and the greater the chance it will end up in a reader’s hands as a new or gently used book.”

Impact

Having books freely available for borrowing online serves people with a variety of needs including those with limited access to libraries because of disabilities, transportation issues, people in rural areas, and those who live in under-resourced parts of the world.

Sean, an author in Oregon said he goes through older magazines for design ideas, especially from cultures that he wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise: “It gives me a wider understanding of my small place in the global historical context.” One parent from San Francisco said she uses the lending library to learn skills like hand drawing to draw characters and landscapes to interact deeper with her child.

The need for information is more urgent than ever.

“We are all homeschoolers now. This pandemic has driven home how important it is to have online access to quality information,” Kahle said. “It’s gratifying to hear from teachers and parents that are now given the tools to work with their children during this difficult time.”

Kahle’s vision is to have every reference in Wikipedia be linked to a book and for every student writing a high school report to have access to the best published research on their subject. He wants the next generation to become authors of the books that should be in the library and the most informed electorate possible.

Adds Kahle: “Thank you to all who have made this possible – all the funders, all the donors, the thousands who have sent books to be digitized. If we all work together, we can do another million this year.”

Take action

If you’re interested in making a physical donation to the Internet Archive, there are instructions and an online form that start the process in the Internet Archive’s Help Center: How do I make a physical donation to the Internet Archive?

Pastor: “Profound Gift” to Discover Books Through Internet Archive’s Program for Users with Print Disabilities

Authorized readers have special access to millions of digitized books through the Internet Archive’s program, connecting patrons with print disabilities to a vast digital library.

Doug Wilson says he’s a bit of a “bookaholic.” As senior pastor of a nondenominational church in West Covina, California, he surrounds himself with books at his office and study at home.

Pastor Doug Wilson is an avid reader who benefits from Internet Archive’s program for people with print disabilities.

“I’m a voracious reader and love learning,” said Wilson, who recalls taking a wagon to the library every week as a kid and bringing back a stack of books. “I find life intriguing.”

The 64-year-old said his vision has never been great, but within the last year noticed it was worsening. Wilson was struggling to read print with small font sizes or in low light.  An avid user of the Internet Archive, he learned about the Archive’s program for users with print disabilities, which allows authorized users to skip waitlists for the ebook collection and download protected EPUBs and PDFs. Wilson applied for the program and was granted access, with great results.

“It’s so helpful to be able to have multiple resources open at once on my computer,” said Wilson, who looks up material online from ancient thought to contemporary theology for his sermons. “It’s been wonderful to find something on just about anything.”  

Jessamyn West of the Vermont Mutual Aid Society, who helps qualified users with print disabilities gain access to Internet Archive’s lending library.

Signing up for the program was easy and fast, said Wilson. Students and researchers associated with a university can obtain access through their university library or student success center. For those outside higher ed, the process is run by Jessamyn West at the Vermont Mutual Aid Society, who receives requests through an online form from patrons around the world. People who qualify for the program include those with blindness, low-vision, dyslexia, brain injuries and other cognition problems who need extra time to interact with materials. Since October 2018, West has welcomed more than 5,600 users into the program.

“It makes a real difference to people’s lives,” said West. “Especially nowadays when many people are stuck at home and working with limited resources, having a world of accessible books available to them opens doors and expands horizons. I’ve seen people checking out books on drawing and painting, books about art history and comparative religions, and just a lot of fiction. The collection is truly extensive.”

With expanded access to digitized books, Wilson said he has been reconnecting with works written by many of his mentors through the digital theological collections. “It’s been a profound gift to discover those books that have been influential in my life. Getting access has been another way to be encouraged and mentored even from a distance,” said Wilson, adding he is in a season of life when many of those people are passing away. “The service has been so generous and a supplement to my own library.”

Doug Wilson reading to one of his youngest parishioners, his grandson Luca.

Being able to find the exact resource he needs from home and late at night is a convenience that Wilson said he values. Wilson has enjoyed books from Marygrove Library, a collection full of religious and social justice materials that was recently donated and made available online.

In an era with competing forms of information and disinformation, Wilson said the Internet Archive is important. “Wisdom is hard to come by,” said Wilson. “We are barraged with data in our culture. It can be hard to ferret out what’s real. To have access to actual information and works that have stood the test of time is a godsend.”

To learn more about the Internet Archive’s program for users with print disabilities, and to verify eligibility, please visit the program web page.