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.
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.”
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.”
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.
Like any good librarian, Lisa Seaberg of the Internet Archive’s patron services team is prepared to answer the question: Can you recommend a book? In fact, Seaberg has 1,729 suggestions. She has organized what she wants to read in a publicly available list on Open Library.
“I’ve had a lifelong interest in reading and books,” said Seaberg, who worked as an assistant in her high school library in Milford, Connecticut. It was there that a mentoring librarian helped shape her taste in reading and introduced her to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
Seaberg went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in library science from Southern Connecticut State University in 1996. She learned about the book publishing industry, practical skills of cataloguing, Boolean searching, and managing databases. She later earned a master’s degree in digital media from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.
In 2017, Seaberg began to volunteer with Open Library and was hired to join the Internet Archive staff in 2020 to work for patron services. Based in Amsterdam, she responds to email requests to connect users with resources and helps coordinate a team of more than 200 volunteers to fix metadata issues. Seaberg works to maintain the digital collection, identify duplicates, and make sure the record represents the available books. She also fulfills interlibrary loan requests, as part of the Internet Archive’s new ILL service.
Prior joining the Internet Archive, Seaberg worked at Gateway Computers in the late 90s where she gained useful technology experience. She later worked in communications for a hospital, managing its website. Those positions provided her with a sense of information architecture, she said, that she has applied to her work at the Internet Archive.
Seaberg said she is fascinated by everything that the Internet Archive provides to the public. In her job, she enjoys working with the book metadata. “It’s rewarding to make something discoverable,” she said. If people have an author they like, Seaberg tries to make sure there are subject headings and tags to make it easier for them to find related materials of interest.
Recently, Seaberg said, it’s been meaningful to be involved in efforts to provide access to books being challenged by local school districts because of controversial content. She’s helped assemble digital collections of titles being targeted to ensure continuous access should an entity decide to ban them.
When Seaberg is not working, she loves to play board games—gravitating to hobbyist, European games such as the Gaia Project, the complex, economy-building game that takes place in space. Her other main hobby is book hunting at charity shops and openbare boekenkastjes (free libraries) in and around her home in Amsterdam. Since Seaberg has limited shelf space, she sticks to her rule of only buying books that are on her Open Library Want To Read list.
Among her favorite projects when it comes to the Internet Archive collection: Organizing the profiles of individual authors to make sure their works are all consolidated and easy to find for patrons.
From Texas to Virginia to Pennsylvania, there is a growing movement to challenge books in schools that some suggest are inappropriate for students. Concern goes beyond explicit content; it now includes opposition to LGBTQIA material, the history of racism, and material that may cause discomfort to readers.
While efforts to ban books are not new, the solutions to counter censorship are—thanks to technology that is used to create access for all.
The Internet Archive’s Open Library (https://openlibrary.org) does not face the same local pressures that many school districts or school libraries do. At a time when students and teachers may be encountering limited access to content in their local community, the Internet Archive acquires and digitizes material for its online library, and lends a wide array of books for free to anyone, anytime.
For example, the American Library Association’s list of most challenged books in the past decade are available in a curated collection. Among the titles: The Glass Castle by Jennette Walls, banned for offensive language and sexually explicit content; The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, cited as being insensitive, anti-family and violent; and Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin, challenged for its LGBTQIA content and the perceived effects on young people who would read it.
Books dealing with gay and trans rights have long been targeted in school libraries. There are more than 1,800 titles in Open Library’s LGBTQ Collection—sorted, searchable and available to borrow online for free. Many of the novels, memoirs and works of history are not otherwise accessible to people who live in rural areas or places where those materials are explicitly banned.
New Challenges, New Responses
The new efforts to ban books are taking a much broader view of limiting access. Across the country, some objectors say books like Beloved by Toni Morrison, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988, should not be discussed or available in schools. As these lists are made public, Open Library’s volunteer team of Open Librarians take action to ensure that these books remain accessible to all.
Recently, Open Library created a collection of books removed from circulation in the Goddard School District in Kansas. It includes The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Fences by August Wilson, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1987. A small collection of banned books from Alaska’s Mat-Su Valley features Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitgerald.
Open Library’s lead community librarian, Lisa Seaberg, is curating a collection of 850 books that have recently been challenged in Texas. Among the books targeted are ones that mention human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, contain material that might make students feel uncomfortable or distressed because of their race or sex or convey that a student, by virtue of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive.
What’s become caught up in this “wide net,” said Seaberg, are books about health education, teen pregnancy, civics, philosophy, religion, anthropology, inventions, encyclopedias and, ironically, a novel about book censorship in a high school. Those who favor removing certain books see an opportunity and momentum, she said, but the difference in this moment is that libraries are able to provide access to titles regardless of where the reader is located.
One reason books get banned is because political forces within an area become stronger than the populace, said Mek, who leads the Open Library team for the Internet Archive. “Open Library is trying to bridge these inequity gaps across geographies and social classes. We invite the populace to come together and participate in a digital sanctuary where our rich and diverse cultural heritage isn’t subject to censorship by the few with special interests.”
At the most basic level, banning books is about restricting access to knowledge, said Lisa Petrides, chief executive officer and founder of the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME).
“The impact of this on schools means that students are exposed to a limited set of world views, which is extremely detrimental to critical thinking, reflective analysis and discussion,” said Petrides. “Perhaps even more importantly as we are seeing today, this means that educators and librarians are increasingly put in difficult situations, having to face the threat of reprisal from administrators or school boards, who are themselves increasingly less willing to stand up for the First Amendment rights of their teachers and learners.”
The Path Forward
Everyone’s perspectives should matter and be represented in the democratic process. A library must offer diverse materials so people can draw their own conclusions, said Mek. He embraces the oft-cited quote from librarian Jo Godwin: “A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone.”
“It’s important for informed members of society to share their opinions,” he says. “But there’s a difference between sharing an opinion and robbing someone of the opportunity to form their own. To change hearts and minds, write a compelling book—don’t take authors you disagree with off the shelves. The Open Library community is honoring these values by giving contested titles their spots back on the shelf.”
Seaberg says, hopefully, recent book challenges will ultimately fail and access to a range of books will be restored. “If students walk into a library and they have books that only present one side of an issue, or are only relatable to a certain group in a culture, it excludes a lot of people,” she says. “They might not even know this other content exists.”
2020 has been a year of difficulties for all of us. Many schools, libraries, and families have had to adapt to unexpected closures and new norms.
At the Internet Archive, volunteers from the OpenLibrary.org community have been stepping up to meet the challenges of this new normal, to ensure that educators, parents, students, and researchers may continue to safely access the educational materials they rely on.
This Tuesday, October 27, at 11:30 am PDT, we invite you to tune-in and join us as we celebrate this year’s efforts, overcoming unprecedented challenges and growing as an open community.
During this online event, you’ll hear from members of the community as we: * Announce our latest developments and their impacts * Raise awareness about opportunities to participate * Show a sneak-peek into our future: 2021
For more updates, consider following us on twitter: @openlibrary
By Michelle Swanson, an educator and national educational specialist from Eugene, OR
While education leaders and classroom teachers have discussed the growing issue of the Digital Divide for years, its severity has become painfully clear as classrooms have been forced online during school closures. The results of distance learning show low levels of engagement and progress for students from homes lacking internet access and devices. In addition, students facing the digital gap tend to have fewer books at home and live in communities struggling to keep libraries open. The pandemic has brought these serious equity issues to the forefront.
Closing the technology divide by ensuring that every student has a personal learning device and reliable internet access at home is a critical first step. Districts looking for guidance on 1:1 initiatives should look to ISTE’s definition of equitable technology access that makes up one of their “essential conditions” for supporting all learners.
Once students have a computer and WiFi, school leaders can look to the Internet Archive’s digital collections as one part of a multi-pronged strategy to address learner equity. Specifically, these online resources can be used to target issues of resource access, instructional rigor, and special needs access.
Resource Access Considerations
Book and Library Access By supplementing their onsite collections with online access to the Internet Archive’s Open Library, schools can extend a wealth of resources to all learners in a digital learning space that is open 24/7. Books can either be borrowed for one hour or two weeks, depending on availability.
Diverse Resource Access Open Library offers diverse reading materials to represent its readers. It includes books from the curated #1000 Black Girl Books list created by Marley Dias, a young girl determined to find books with main characters that looked like her. The collection includes books for younger readers like Karen Katz’ The Colors of Us and Chris Cleave’s Little Bee for older students.
Instructional Rigor Considerations
Standards-Aligned Books Providing rigorous instruction is an important equity strategy. To support high quality teaching and learning, the Internet Archive collections include texts suggested by the Common Core framework. For example, beginning readers can borrow books for reading aloud like Pat Mora’s Tomas and the Library Lady, while middle schoolers can explore Mildred Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and high schoolers can tackle In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez.
Grade-Level Appropriate Books The Internet Archive’s digital libraries include grade-level appropriate collections that teachers can use to ensure that all students are appropriately challenged with complex and quality texts.
Special Needs Access
Read Aloud and Print Disabled Books For students who need or prefer to listen to and visualize the plot of a story, Open Library provides a read aloud option. When viewing a borrowed book online, students can click on the audio speaker icon and choose their preferred reading speed. For those who are visually impaired and have special software, print disabled books have been formatted through DAISY. These tools can support school efforts to employ a Universal Design for Learning approach.
Print Disabled Collection To make access to print disabled books across the collection even easier to find, the Internet Archive has curated a Books for People with Print Disabilities section. Over 1.5M books are accessible through this page and cover the wide range of topics available in the broader library from History and Science to Children’s literature.
Working toward educational equity should be core to the mission of every school. By supporting resource access, instructional rigor, and special needs access, tools like the Internet Archive’s digital libraries can help schools move toward this essential goal.
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.
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.”
“In today’s rapidly changing access to digital content, it is important that the broader library community works together to build lasting and growing collections of digital content for our customers and communities,” said Paul Takala, Chief Librarian and CEO of Hamilton Public Library. “The Internet Archive has developed a responsible and balanced controlled digital lending (CDL) model. I look forward to a future where all the unique titles we have in our collection – many of which are out of print – can be shared with researchers and learners everywhere. With the Internet Archive’s Open Libraries program, this future is now possible. I encourage all libraries to join this important effort.”
Internet Archive’s Open Libraries program uses controlled digital lending (CDL) to deliver nearly one million volumes of digitized texts to readers and researchers all over the world. Controlled digital lending is a process by which libraries can lend print books to patrons in digitized form, and has been described by copyright experts from major research libraries. Through CDL, libraries use controls to ensure an “owned-to-loaned” ratio, meaning the library circulates the exact number of copies of a specific title it owns, regardless of format, putting controls in place to prevent users from redistributing or copying the digitized version. CDL is not meant to replace existing licensing agreements for modern ebooks; instead, CDL helps libraries provide access to twentieth century publications that don’t have an electronic equivalent.
Participating in Open Libraries is easy. After signing on to the program, libraries share their catalogs with Internet Archive and our engineers perform an overlap analysis to determine the physical books in a library’s collection that match the books we have digitized. Where there’s a match, the Internet Archive returns links and catalog records to the digital book so that the library can include these in their catalog.
If your library is interested in learning more about the Open Libraries program, please consider joining one of our upcoming webinars:
Earlier this year we released our Open Libraries wish list, which brought together four datasets to help inform our collection development priorities for Open Libraries. After working with the wish list for a few months and reviewing our approach, we decided to make a few revisions to the ways in which we brought together the data. Our wish list was always intended to be an iterative work-in-progress, and we are pleased to release our latest version here: https://archive.org/details/open_libraries_wish_list
These data help us define a collection of 1.5M books, identified by their ISBNs, that are widely held and frequently cited. We continue to work on human-mediated efforts to identify collections that are reflective of the diverse voices in our communities.
In this latest revision to the wish list, we decided to keep the focus on materials that are widely held and widely cited by fine tuning the thresholds for inclusion on the list in the following ways:
In our previous wish list, we had included xISBN “synonyms” to the ISBNs on the list as a way of increasing the breadth of materials, but realized that approach created scenarios where we could have digitized a different edition than the one cited by a Wikipedia editor, or included on a syllabus. In the latest revision, we chose to include only the ISBNs included on each list.
We also revised our approach to the Wikipedia citations, including those books that had been cited more than once.
This latest revision gives us a wish list comprised of 1.5M ISBNs that we feel confident in using as a core collection around which to focus our acquisition and digitization priorities.
How can you help?
If you’d like to help us build our digital collection, you can contribute in the following ways:
You can donate books to our physical archive. If you are a library, a publisher, or have a private collection with more than 1,000 books to donate, please contact Chris Freeland, Director of Open Libraries, at email@example.com. We will add these books to our digitization queue and they will become ebooks available through Open Libraries as funding becomes available.
If you are an author who would like to add your own books to the list, you can donate physical copies, and/or contact us to let us know you’d like us to ensure that your work will be preserved and available to future generations.
If you’re a librarian, educator, or other book lover and would like to help us continue to curate the wish list to ensure that it includes the most useful, important and culturally diverse books, please reach out to us.
If you have books on our wish list but don’t want to donate them to our physical archive, we offer scanning services and can digitize your books in one of our regional scanning centers.
If you are interested in participating, or have questions about our program or plans, please contact Chris Freeland, Director of Open Libraries, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are looking for partners to help us build a great physical collection of books to be preserved, digitized, and made available through our Open Libraries project. Working with more than 500 library partners, the Internet Archive has already helped make more than 3 million public domain books available online for free access through archive.org. We have also brought more than 500,000 in-copyright books online to provide full access to those with print disabilities.
Our goal is to bring 4 million more books online, so that all digital learners have access to a great digital library on par with a major metropolitan public library system. We know we won’t be able to make this vision a reality alone, which is why we’re working with libraries, authors, and publishers to build a collaborative digital collection accessible to any library in the country.
Building a great library starts with great books. We have already gathered more than 1.5 million books in our physical archive. We aspire to have one copy of every book, but enroute to that dream we have created a “wishlist” to help prioritize preservation and access. This wishlist was compiled using data and assistance from several great projects:
We are using these datasets to help define a collection of books that has wide appeal and impact for libraries across the US and the patrons they serve. This wishlist is a work-in-progress and will evolve as we incorporate more datasets and review our approach with community input. We’ve made 3 versions our wishlist available to help facilitate use within the library and publishing communities, featuring ISBN-13, ISBN-10, & OCLC identifiers.
Here’s how you can help! We are looking for libraries, authors, publishers, and individual book lovers to help us build this collection. You can help in the following ways:
You can donate books on our wishlist to our physical archive. If you are a library, a publisher, or have a private collection with more than 1,000 books to donate, please contact Chris Freeland, Director of Open Libraries, at email@example.com. If you have a private collection or small number of volumes to donate, please use this form to begin the donation process. We will add these books to our digitization queue and they will become ebooks available through Open Libraries as funding becomes available.
If you already have digital versions of these books, we would love to add them to our print-disabled collection.
If you have books on our wishlist but don’t want to donate them to our physical archive, we offer scanning services and can digitize your books in one of our regional scanning centers.
If you are an author who would like to add your own books to the list, you can donate physical copies, and/or contact us to let us know you’d like us to ensure that your work will be preserved and available to future generations. If you’re a librarian, educator, or other book lover and would like to help us continue to curate the wishlist to ensure that it includes the most useful, important and culturally diverse books, please reach out to us.