This morning, we were disappointed to read that four commercial publishers are suing the Internet Archive.
As a library, the Internet Archive acquires books and lends them, as libraries have always done. This supports publishing, authors and readers. Publishers suing libraries for lending books, in this case protected digitized versions, and while schools and libraries are closed, is not in anyone’s interest.
A project by Dina Kelberman presented by Dazibao and broadcasted in partnership with the Internet Archive
Kelberman’s practice is one of obsessive collection and organization converted by a perfectionism that provokes interminable repetitions. Though her images are often sourced from the Internet, the artist doesn’t work within the random and fragmented semiotics of that medium. Instead, with a character of care and resourcefulness, she leans into that which is expressed through multiplicity or reiteration: “My work is about how everyone and everything is special, and so while specialness is not special, it is still pretty much the most exciting thing going.”
Dina Kelberman’s project Nervous will feature a series of video loops that compare and combine compulsive habits, recursively exploring the areas where comfort and anxiety are simultaneous. In the midst of Covid-19, these restless gestures for coping, once experienced privately by a minority, might suddenly become familiar to a vast majority who attempt to take cautionary measures. Instagram in this context and as a platform for the work, also speaks to a feeling both of necessity and of insatiability, while inducing the user/viewer in the repetitive, almost irrepressible gestures of tapping and scrolling.
The original footage used for Nervous comes from viewing hundreds of commercials and educational films spanning the 50’s to 90’s sourced from the Internet Archive’s extensive collections. Tiny moments found within these movies are edited into endless loops of small behaviors. The original innocuous context of these moments, intended to be level-headed and soothing, instead becomes nerve-wracking. Commercials for tough-acting cleaners and convenient appliances are now compulsive preoccupations. Educational films depicting the right way to do something, the solutions to problems, now are problems themselves. The means to improve your life have failed past the realm of diminishing returns into flat-out harm.
Dazibao is a contemporary art center and non-profit organization dedicated to the dissemination and mediation of contemporary image practices, privileging artistic experimentation, enquiry and reflection related to current social issues.
Dazibao is dedicated to the development and presentation of original artworks by Canadian artists whose contemporary practices are founded on the image. Providing the public an opportunity to create links between local and global discourses, such works are presented alongside works by international artists thus contextualizing their relevance within a broader art ecology.
By questioning the discourses, uses and modes of disseminating images, Dazibao explores artistic as well as historical and social issues, sharing them with the various communities that make up Montreal’s diversity.
The reflections developed by Dazibao are conveyed by way of exhibitions, video programs, films, public artworks, books and special events. These activities are accompanied by a cultural outreach program that facilitates stimulating encounters with art and create conversations raised by societal issues.
Dazibao collaborates with numerous artists, curators, critics, researchers, and the university milieu and is involved in several ongoing partnerships with related or complementary organizations. Dazibao promotes equity, inclusivity, equality, diversity and cultural hybridization so that art can assert itself as a field of knowledge capable of facilitating a better understanding of the world around us. Offered free of charge, the activities organized by the center are open to all.
“To our knowledge,” write the editors of Zora, “no one has ever compiled a comprehensive list specifically featuring the finest literary works produced by African American women authors. We decided to undertake that effort both to honor that still underappreciated group of writers and to provide [readers] with a handy reference guide to their work. ”
The books were compiled in consultation with a panel of academics, critics, authors, editors, and authorities on African American women’s literature, who each added to the final list. The result was 100 works spanning more than a century and a half in a huge variety of genres and styles, including novels, plays, poetry, memoirs, anthologies, and scholarly works. “Taken together,” write the editors, “the works don’t just make up a novel canon; they form a revealing mosaic of the Black American experience during the time period. They’re also just great reads. ”
As part of our commitment to offering Universal Access to All Knowledge, the Internet Archive works to share literature from diverse perspectives—which is why we were pleased to discover that most of the books in the Zora Canon are already available in our collections. Many of them are available for checkout—all you have to do is sign up for a digital library card—while a few are in the public domain, allowing anybody to download them without limitation. Some of the books that aren’t yet available can be added through our Book Sponsorship program, so that future readers can discover and enjoy them.
If you’d like to read some of the books on the list, check out the links below! If you want to expand your reading further, you can also browse our #1000 Black Girl Books Collection (which features a range of books with Black girls and women as the protagonists) or our full list of works by Zora Neale Hurston. Happy reading!
We hope you and your family had a relaxing Memorial Day Weekend, and we hope you spent your weekend reading from the National Emergency Library. If you are enjoying the NEL or simply want to talk about the books you have borrowed from our library, please let us know. And we will not share your response unless you give explicit permission.
Below are highlights from the library world. And as always, thank you for your generous support.
Sizzle Then Fizzle: Buzzy Titles and Borrowing Digitized Books.Have you ever wondered what happens to popular books after their day in the sun has passed? In this blog post we discuss two titles that have received a lot of interest, but as we uncovered, most individuals only wanted to check the book for a certain “newsy” passage.
By Retraining Staff, We Uncover Rare Gems. We have some good news for this extraordinary time: we are bringing back furloughed scanners and hiring experts to teach our staff how to do new and safe socially distanced scanning activities for the Library. Our scanners are uncovering rare gems and learning new skills, like how to digitize 78rpm records.
How to Binge Watch Some Great Classic Sci-Fi for Free. Love classic science fiction, but cannot find what you want to watch on television? We have you covered. ZDNet has a guide—including some browser extension tips and tricks—about how to watch science fiction classics from our collection.
ICYMI: Controlled Digital Lending: Getting Books to Students During the Pandemic & Beyond. Our friends at Public Knowledge hosted a webinar last Friday about controlled digital lending. Moderated by Public Knowledge, Counsel, Meredith Rose, the session included Cory Doctorow, author of Radicalized and Walkaway, special advisor to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and visiting professor of practice in library science at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Chris Freeland, Director of Open Libraries at the Internet Archive; Lisa Petrides, Founder and CEO of Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education; and Lisa Weaver, Director, Collections & Program Development at Hamilton Public Library. If you missed the event, the video can be found in the link above.
Upcoming Webinars and Events. If you’re interested in learning how libraries can use controlled digital lending in addition to the temporary National Emergency Library, please join Chris Freeland, Director of Open Libraries, who will be leading a series of webinars on this topic. Freeland will explain how the Internet Archive works: from scanning book centers to how books are made available online. Please check the link for webinar dates.
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.
What are you reading from the National Emergency Library? Please let us know. We will not share your response unless you give explicit permission. We are thrilled so many of you have reached out to let us know how you are using the Library for research, teaching, and even personal purposes.
Below are highlights from the library world. As always, thank you for your generous support.
When An Island Shuts Down: Aruba & the National Emergency Library. On March 15, the small island nation of Aruba had its businesses, schools, and libraries close to stop the spread of COVID-19. And like so many others, librarians began to wonder how they would find the appropriate books needed, especially for students. Our team spoke with Dr. Peter Scholing, who leads the digitization effort at the National Library of Aruba, about how the National Emergency Library has provided the “missing link” needed for students across the country.
The Copyright Office Weighs in on the National Emergency Library. The United States Copyright Office (USCO) penned a reply to Senator Udall [D-NM] asking about the legality of the National Emergency Library. The Office’s response primarily focuses on general guidance for libraries and educational institutions and avoids reaching a legal conclusion or providing any specific recommendations regarding the NEL. Internet Archive Founder and Digital Librarian, Brewster Kahle responded to the letter on Twitter, please see his reply here. If you would like to contact your Member of Congress to tell them how you are using and enjoying the NEL, a state and district list can be found here.
Controlled Digital Lending: Getting Books to Students During the Pandemic & Beyond. Our friends at Public Knowledge are hosting a webinar on May 22nd about controlled digital lending. The webinar will be moderated by Public Knowledge Counsel Meredith Rose, who will be joined by Cory Doctorow, author of Radicalized and Walkaway, special advisor to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and visiting professor of practice in library science at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill; Chris Freeland, Director of Open Libraries at the Internet Archive; Lisa Petrides, Founder and CEO of Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education; and Lisa Weaver, Director, Collections & Program Development at Hamilton Public Library.
Other Webinars and Events. If you’re interested in learning how libraries can use controlled digital lending in addition to the temporary National Emergency Library, please join Chris Freeland, Director of Open Libraries, who will be leading a series of webinars on this topic. Freeland will explain how the Internet Archive works: from scanning book centers to how books are made available online. Check here for webinar dates.
What YOU Are Saying About the National Emergency Library: Our team has been soliciting input on the National Emergency Library. Below are a handful of testimonials from across the education and library sectors. We only use testimonials for which we have explicit permission. If you would like to be featured in our next newsletter, please submit a testimonial.
Note: We have NOT substantially changed the testimonials, if you notice your testimonial looks a little different, it is just for readability purposes. Thank you for submitting.
Mike M., Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, Researcher: Mike is a researcher who has been using the National Emergency Library for personal research purposes in the fields of genealogy and art history. He called the NEL “awesome.”
Don’t forget to keep up with updates from the Internet Archive team by following us on Twitter and visiting our website.
On March 15, the small island nation of Aruba, part of the Dutch Caribbean, closed its borders to visitors. Cruise ships packed with tourists stopped coming. Casinos, libraries and schools shut their doors, as Aruba’s 110,000 residents locked down to halt the spread of COVID-19.
Librarians quickly gathered reading lists from students, parents and schools. With high school graduation exams just a month away, the required literature books would be crucial. Aruban students are tested on books in Dutch, English, Spanish and their native language of Papiamento. “Just before your literary final exams, you need to re-read the books,” explained Peter Scholing, who leads digitization efforts at the National Library of Aruba. “The libraries are closed. Your school libraries are closed. You can order from Amazon, but it takes weeks and weeks to arrive. If you are in an emergency, then you hope your books are online.”
Scholing was relieved to discover that most of the required literature in English and Spanish was available in the Internet Archive’s National Emergency Library. As library staff moved to work from home, they grabbed the tools to digitize the books in Papiamento that were missing. Many local authors were easy to track down and most gladly gave permission for free downloads or loaning their works. Scholing reports, “Some of them choose digital lending. But a lot of them say, ‘Well it was a limited print run….I’ve sold all the copies of my books, now you can just make it available for download.’”
Preservation Pays Off
For many years, the library’s small Special Collections staff had been diligently digitizing key collections: photographs, historic texts, newspapers, and perhaps the world’s largest collection of texts in Papiamento. But with few technical resources, the National Library of Aruba had no way to provide access to those works. Scholing says the Internet Archive proved to be the “missing link.” In March 2019, the Library was able to unveil its new Digital Collection, 18,800 texts, videos and audio now accessible to the world on archive.org. Today, with libraries and schools closed, these materials are the keys to unlocking the doors to online learning.
“We didn’t imagine something like the Covid crisis could happen,” said Scholing. “But for our preservation efforts, this is the Big One. We are really lucky to be able to provide access to information that we couldn’t otherwise without the Internet Archive.”
When Waitlists Won’t Work
Although Scholing had permission from the authors to lend their recent books, several times we accidentally reinstituted the waiting list, since the National Emergency Library does not include books from the last five years. That meant students reading the work suddenly would have had to wait, sometimes for weeks, to move up the waiting list. Scholing wrote to us immediately: “There must be an alternative. I’m getting emails from students and teachers already.”
Eventually we worked out the kinks so Aruba’s books in the National Emergency Library wouldn’t get taken down. In addition, hundreds of texts in Papiamento from 1844-2020 are now available without waitlist. It’s part of a bigger vision on the island to teach students to read and write the language they speak at a higher level. “A lot of textbooks come straight from the Netherlands…you are reading about snow, trains and windmills,” Scholing explained. “It’s better to use something from a newspaper or magazine produced locally…It’s their own context. It speaks more to them.”
He even received this note from a local author, written in Papiamento:
Peter aprecia, (Dear Peter,)
Hopi admiracion pa e trabou cu bo ta desplegando pa Aruba y nos hendenan.
(A lot of admiration for the work that you are carrying out for Aruba and for our people.)
This week, schools in Aruba are scheduled to reopen. Since March, the library has tripled the number of items in its digital collection, and visitors have increased by 300%. Scholing sees this as evidence that the National Emergency Library will have lasting benefit. “All the thresholds and barriers to access this unique information have been lifted, once you put it online.”
For six weeks, Internet Archive book scanner, Mandy Weiler, was unable to digitize art history books inside the now shuttered Getty Research Institute. Furloughed and stuck inside her 500-square-foot apartment in Los Angeles, she spent a lot of time staring out the window. She took up bird watching and hung out with her cat. Then, the Internet Archive had an idea: bring scanners back from furlough and hire experts to teach Mandy and other book scanners new skills, including dating 78 rpm records and performing custom audio restoration on these recordings from a century ago. “Before I was doing the whole Doom Scrolling all day long,” Mandy recalls. “When we came back from furlough…I was really glad to get assigned to the 78 project. It has been such a nice distraction to get lost in these old records.”
Across the country, in Philadelphia, music metadata researcher Liz Rosenberg was also in need of work. A specialist in 78 rpm records trained by the legendary George Blood, Liz agreed to lead a new project cataloging 38,000 discs in our 78s collection for which the date of publication is unknown. Her team of a dozen former book scanners starts with the data on the record labels, but that is often just the beginning. Almost every 78 recording was originally assigned a matrix number, usually etched into the shellac itself. It is the only sure way of identifying a performance, but certain record labels such as Victor kept its matrix numbers secret. Sometimes only abbreviated versions of the matrix number are printed on the label itself.
Enter Mandy Weiler, who has a bachelor’s degree in Public History and has worked for libraries for the last decade. Turns out that digging up music metadata is right in her wheelhouse. “It’s a lot of web sleuthing. I’m one of those people who have 100 tabs open all the time on their computer,” she explained. “My partner calls me a story hoarder. I’m glad we are putting it to good use.”
Take for instance this 78 disc, Reigen (La Ronde de L’amour) by Adolf Wohlbruck, publication date unknown. “I started in all the normal places, but I wasn’t getting any hits,” Mandy recounted. “I couldn’t narrow down the dates and then I started finding out more about the performer.”
Mandy’s research uncovered a fascinating story behind this disc. The performer, Adolf Wohlbruck, was better known as Anton Walbrook, the queer, Jewish son of a circus performer who fled Nazi Germany in 1936. Walbrook went on to become a celebrated actor in Hollywood and England.
In La Ronde, the 1950 film for which he recorded this performance, Walbrook plays the master of ceremonies in a cycle of stories about love. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards and was later remade in a 1964 film starring Jane Fonda.
Perhaps Walbrook’s best known films are the 49th Parallel and The Red Shoes, both of which you can still watch in the Internet Archive. All of this rich backstory is now recorded in the Internet Archive Review Section for this 78 rpm record.
“It can take you down some great rabbit holes,” Mandy said. “This is the stuff I’ve been interested in my adult life. Digging in and finding information that is not readily available and sharing it. Universal Access to to Knowledge. That’s important to me because it helps so many people.”
Oh, and the publication date of the 78 Reigen? Mandy says it is likely 1951. Can anyone help us further?