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Controlled Digital Lending Takes Center Stage at Library Leaders Forum

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

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

Why is this important?

Chris Freeland, Director of Open Libraries

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

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

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

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

Helping libraries see what’s possible

Library Leaders Forum attendees at San Francisco Public Library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Framing the approach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opening Doors for Students

Lisa Petrides, Founder and CEO of ISKME

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

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

Karen Lemmons, Detroit School of Arts

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

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

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

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

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

CDL in Action

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

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

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

Michael Kostukovsky discusses Controlled Digital Lending

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

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

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

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

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

Moving forward

Mike Buschman, Washington State Library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Barker

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing the Access Gap in Rural Maryland

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

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

Michael Blackwell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Academic Authors Find Larger Audience

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

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

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

Robert Darnton

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

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

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

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

University of Alberta Opens Up Digital Access to Historic Curriculum Materials

Anyone interested in learning about what was taught in Alberta schools in the past century used to go to the basement of the H. T. Coutts Education and Kinesiology and Physical Education Library at the University of Alberta. There, users would ask to be let into a locked room to view the historical curriculum collection.

Now, many of the historic textbooks are online and available through Controlled Digital Lending, the digital equivalent of a traditional library lending. It’s making for a new chapter in educational research at the urban university, which has about 40,000 students.

“It’s important for me to trace ideas in curriculum over time,” said Cathryn van Kessel, Assistant Professor of Education who is studying feminist issues in curriculum documents and textbooks. “The digitized collection allows researchers to shave countless hours off of our data collection. Being able to access electronic copies with searchable text is invaluable.”

Kim Frail, H.T. Coutts Library

CDL is also useful for the growing number of students taking online classes at the university and researchers who live outside of Edmonton or in other provinces, said Kim Frail, Public Services Librarian at the H.T. Coutts Library on campus.

The University of Alberta Libraries is Canada’s second-largest research library containing more than 5.2 million titles, 7.5 million volumes, 1.3 million e-books and 1,100 databases. They were also the first to adopt CDL in Canada.

The education library received a bequest from estate from Marie Wiedrick, wife of a former faculty member, Laurence Wiedrick, that has been used to fund the digitization project . With the help of the Internet Archives, which set up a scanning facility on campus, the university is more than halfway through digitizing approximately 6000 books that were used in Alberta schools from 1885 to 1985.

Many of the books in the Wiedrick Collection are becoming fragile and deteriorating as they were physically checked out. CDL provides an alternative format that allows the originals to be preserved.

“We think it’s a great legacy for the [Wiedrick] family because it allows broader access to the collection,” said Frail, who works with education researchers at the library that functions as a quasi-academic and public library used by the broader community.
In one education course, students examine the representation of Indigenous people over time in historical textbooks. In graduate-level courses that focus on the history of curriculum, students select a certain 10-year period to study how the teaching of certain subjects has changed. Having digital content makes it easier for students to access the materials, especially with regards to curriculum documents or “Programs of Study” from the early 1900s when all the subjects were contained in one book, noted Frail.

Recently, an Alberta researcher received a large grant to work in collaboration with scholars at 17 universities around Canada to examine how history has been taught in the schools over time. Online access to the Wiedrick Collection means that researchers can tap into textbooks in Alberta from any location.

“As we move forward in education, it’s interesting to know where there were gaps – what things were and weren’t being taught,” said Frail.

It’s a particularly useful resource, as well, since librarians have compiled a bibliography that traces what books were used when and for what subject, Frail added. Digitizing the older works enables researchers to conveniently search topics electronically with key words.

“We are hearing great feedback,” said Frail. “It has opened up a whole new realm of research and enabled comparisons over time on a different scale.”

Giving New Life to Out-of-Print Books Through Controlled Digital Lending

Dean Bartoli Smith’s book of poetry about growing up in Baltimore came out in 2000. American Boy was long past its sales life until it was resurrected by being digitized by the Internet Archive and made available through one-at-a-time digital lending (a model known as Controlled Digital Lending).

Dean Bartoli Smith, Poet and Director, Duke University Press

“It’s uniquely personal to me because some of the poems deal with my parents’ divorce at the age of seven,” says Smith of the 68-page collection of poems. “My mother became a family law attorney and would give my book to clients who were dealing with custody situations. She passed away in January and as a tribute to her, I wanted there to be free access to that book.”

The poems reflect Smith’s journey to adulthood and issues of the day, such as Vietnam and the plight of Native Americans. It is geared for readers 10 and up. Initially, about 1,000 copies were printed by Washington Writers Publishing House and now the book is available by print on demand.

“I think there is a big need to be able to provide access to these books that are out of print,” said Smith, who is director of the Duke University Press and a 1989 graduate of the Masters of Fine Arts program at Columbia University, “I didn’t go about writing as a way to make a living. Poets are writing poetry to make sense of the world and to share. If someone can benefit from something that I’ve written, then all the more power.”

Smith also wrote Never Easy, Never Pretty: A Fan, A City, A Championship Season, a nonfiction trade book about the Baltimore Ravens 2012 Super Bowl season published by Temple University Press in 2013. Each chapter starts with a line of poetry about football from an established poet. While still in print, Smith said he may eventually explore having that title digitized by the Internet Archive.

Boston Public Library Leads Once Again in Digital Lending

Closed stacks where the Houghton Mifflin collection is housed within the Boston Public Library,
photo by Tom Blake

By continuing to find new opportunities to make older books, often lost or just inaccessible to the public, available online, Boston Public Library is sparking new enthusiasm among the reading public.

David Leonard, President,
Boston Public Library

“It’s like a giant treasure hunt for book lovers that just keeps renewing itself,” said BPL President David Leonard.

As one of the nation’s oldest and first municipally funded public libraries in the United States, the Boston Public Library (BPL) holds an estimated 23 million items in its collection. It is one of the three largest in the country along with the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library.

“Libraries that are thriving the most are the ones that are reinventing themselves, responding to new demand and new modes of access, simultaneously keeping one foot in traditional services and engaging with the public in new ways,” said Leonard “and that goes for our physical spaces and for our collections.”

BPL has long been a leader in the digitization and scanning of materials and was the first library to partner with the Internet Archive to pilot access via Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) services in 2011. CDL is the online or digital equivalent of traditional library lending – ‘one copy owned, one copy lent’.

The CDL pilot began in Boston as a way of both preserving and giving access to family genealogies and historical cookbooks, and materials that were stored deep in the stacks and rarely circulated. The first pilot was a success and BPL is moving to its next pilot now offering ‘one patron, one copy at-a-time’ access to scanned copies of certain older printed books from the 50,000 historic children’s books in the Alice Jordan Collection, which is housed in closed stacks and unavailable to the public in physical form. A subset of these works are now available at the Internet Archive via CDL, making them available to patrons for the first time, limited to where the BPL’s catalog overlaps with the Internet Archives’ already scanned materials.

BPL also has a strong relationship with Boston-based publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which has donated a physical copy of every book it has produced since the late 1800s to the Library. While nearly 90 percent of those titles are not in print today, the publisher has agreed to let the library make available a scanned copy of each item in the historical archive through the CDL program, reactivating the collection.

Houghton Mifflin Collection, photo by Tom Blake

With so many lost titles becoming available again, it has become easier for patrons to discover and access an even broader array of books – in some cases, not only giving renewed exposure to a title that has been out of print, but also generating new revenue streams for publishers. The BPL cites at least one example from its early pilot where an author went ahead with a second printing of a book which had been out of print and was rediscovered through the CDL program.

“We hope as more institutions understand the value, we will be able to bring more content back,” Leonard said. “As well as delivering on our mission of increased public access, this program has the effect of being a real marketing channel for both authors and publishers, something libraries have long been a champion for. It provides a particularly useful channel for people to demonstrate their interest in older works, and can revive their commercial value.”

Protecting Books From Harm With Controlled Digital Lending

Photo by: Jon Schultz, Director,
University of Houston Law Library

Michelle Wu began working at the University of Houston Law Library in the wake of flooding from Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. Some parts of the city had 14 feet of water and the library took in at least 8 feet. Law books on the lower level were underwater and the lingering humidity produced mold that destroyed much of the remaining collection.

Michelle Wu, Georgetown Law Library

“I wanted to create a model that would allow libraries to be able to preserve collections while respecting copyright in a world where natural disasters are a growing threat,” said Wu, now associate dean for library services and professor of law at the Georgetown Law Library in Washington, D.C. “Digitizing a collection and storing it under existing standards ensures that there is always a backed-up copy somewhere. During and after any disaster, the user would never lose access and the government would not have to reinvest to rebuild collections.” Controlled Digital Lending–the digital equivalent of traditional library lending–is a model that achieves these purposes.

For libraries with fewer resources, CDL can also be a tool to maximize public dollars and improve access. Once a library determines that its community no longer has a need for a certain CDL book (or as many copies as owned), the extra copies can be shared with libraries that never had access and would never have access without collaborative efforts.

“It’s a way of wealth sharing without much cost to communities,” Wu said. “Storage,
digitization, and system costs would have already been budgeted by the lending library, CDL requires no shipping costs to be paid by either party, and the lending library’s community won’t feel the loss of copies as local need has decreased.”

“It’s a way to build a more robust collection for all of us to use. It helps the community and
society at large in the long term,” said Wu. “That’s not something any of us can do alone. The only way we will do it is if we do it together.”