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Celebrating Kanta Kapoor: 2021 Internet Archive Hero Award Recipient

Kanta Kapoor, manager of support services, Milton Public Library, Milton, Ontario.

Kanta Kapoor was the first in her family to go to a university. Growing up in New Delhi, she was determined to become an independent woman, and she knew education was the key to success.

“I understand the value of knowledge—to survive in this world, to make a living and make informed decisions,” said Kapoor, who excelled in school and worked at public and university libraries in India for several years before moving to Canada in 2012.

Kapoor developed an expertise in emerging technologies and became an advocate for open sharing of information. Now, she is manager of support services at the Milton Public Library (MPL) in Ontario. In that role, she helped MPL become an early adopter of the Internet Archive’s Open Libraries program, which offers digital access to the physical books that a library owns through the library practice known as controlled digital lending (CDL).

For her efforts to broaden access and embrace innovative practices, Kapoor has been named a recipient of the 2021 Internet Archive Hero Award. The annual award recognizes those who have exhibited leadership in making information available for digital learners all over the world. Past recipients have included Michelle Wu, Phillips Academy, the Biodiversity Heritage Library, and the Grateful Dead.

Kanta helping patrons at Milton Public Library.

In her career, Kapoor has focused on leveraging technology to improve services to the community. She has a master’s degree in library science and gained a specialty in open-source software and data management through additional graduate studies at the University of Toronto.

Kapoor said she was drawn to MPL in 2019 because the leadership team was forward thinking and there was an opportunity to expand community-led projects.

“We were challenged to think outside of the box and become champions throughout Canadian public libraries to stay ahead of the curve,” Kapoor said.  

“In my career, I’ve seen many changes—and it’s still evolving. We need to continue to adapt and embrace new technology.”

Kanta Kapoor, 2021 Internet Archive Hero Award recipient

In her newly created position, she helped improve services for patrons and library staff alike with new technology, mobile apps and digitization of materials. When she was introduced to the Open Libraries program, Kapoor said she was impressed by the ability to provide millions of digitized books to users across the world. MPL decided this was the direction it wanted to go and became one of the first public libraries in Canada to embrace CDL and embed a link to Open Libraries in its catalogue.

MPL’s Mark Williams, chief librarian and chief executive officer, credits Kapoor’s strong leadership skills in building the partnership with the Internet Archive, which helped the MPL community during the earliest days of COVID-19 closures.

“It meant we were able to provide our patrons with access to tens of thousands of digitized materials at a time when they were more welcome than ever, during the pandemic lockdowns, while also being able to donate over 40,000 items for the benefit of a truly global audience,” he said. “We are incredibly fortunate that Kanta is part of the MPL team and her  compassion, graciousness, humility and ultimately exemplary leadership have been put to good use.”

Milton Public Library, Milton, Ontario

MPL expanded its partnership by donating physical items to the Archive, obtained a state-of-the-art digitization scanner, and became involved with Library Futures, a coalition of libraries and other stakeholders championing equitable access to knowledge.

Kapoor has helped promote materials available through CDL on the library’s web page, newsletters, and social media. So far, the response by users has been positive and Kapoor is reaching across her professional networks to educate her colleagues about the potential benefits.

“I encourage my fellow librarians to participate in this wonderful project to help their communities out,” Kapoor said. “In my career, I’ve seen many changes—and it’s still evolving. We need to continue to adapt and embrace new technology. I would like to see more libraries joining hands together to serve the community.”

Celebrating Lisa Radha Weaver: 2021 Internet Archive Hero Award Recipient

Lisa Radha Weaver, director of collections and program development, Hamilton Public Library, Hamilton, Ontario.

As a child, Lisa Radha Weaver says she spent most Sunday afternoons at the Kitchener Public Library in Ontario. She has fond memories of the friendly library staff helping her load up as many books as she could carry home.

Then, as a college student at Trent and Queen’s Universities, Weaver again was struck by how kind and generous the people were behind the reference desk at the library. Finally, she asked: How do you get this job?

Weaver learned about the pathway to become a professional librarian. So, after finishing her undergraduate degree in education, she earned her master of library and information science at Western University in London, Ontario.

“I knew that I wanted to serve the public in the same way that I had always been served at all the libraries that I had the privilege of growing up with in the first half of my life,” said Weaver, now director of collections and program development at Hamilton Public Library (HPL) in Ontario.

But that public service role was tested in the spring of 2020 when HPL closed due to COVID-19, as she and her fellow library staff were left wondering how they were going to get books to members who were now locked out of their physical collection. Weaver had been instrumental in helping HPL become an early adopter of the Internet Archive’s Open Libraries program, which offers digital access to the physical books that a library owns. Because of the collections team’s hard work, HPL patrons had access to tens of thousands of books from the safety of their homes, and could continue to read and learn while the physical library remained closed.

Lisa Radha Weaver presents Hamilton Public Library’s 1-Millionth eBook user, Connie Vissers, with a special HPL tote bag prize on October 28, 2020 at the Terryberry Branch.

In recognition of her contributions in her 20-plus year career, and her foresight in leading HPL into new digital lending practices, Weaver has been named the recipient of the 2021 Internet Archive Hero Award. The annual award recognizes those who have exhibited leadership in making information available for digital learners all over the world. Past recipients have included Michelle Wu, Phillips Academy, the Biodiversity Heritage Library, and the Grateful Dead

Weaver has long been committed to broadening access to information. Not everyone is as lucky as she was to have an adult bring them to the library, she says. Others don’t live nearby or work hours that limit their ability to physically visit a branch. To serve the changing needs of users, she has embraced digitizing collections and innovative outreach. 

Weaver led efforts at HPL to become an early adopter of Controlled Digital Lending, as well as identify special collections to donate to the Internet Archives for digitization.  

“CDL means removing barriers to access to collections in a way that is sustainable, accessible and equitable. With one library card, users have access to THE library, not just your local branch, system, region, province, state or even country,” Weaver said. “CDL means great breadth and depth in collections access. No one library can have all the books. CDL helps all libraries work together to best support each member to find what they are looking for, when and where they are looking for it.”

“I just really believe the library should be there for everyone, where they are and when they need it.”

Lisa Radha Weaver, 2021 Internet Archive Hero Award Recipient

The timing of HPL’s embrace of CDL in the fall of 2019 was fortuitous. When the physical buildings had to close due to the pandemic in March 2020 for three months, the library was positioned to provide users with digital access to its collection through the Internet Archive.

“Our hearts were a little bit less heavy, knowing that at least that part of our collection continued to be accessible to people,” Weaver said. “We had positive feedback.”

HPL also beefed up its own virtual library collection and created a range of online programming. Weaver says it developed an online reference system so users could call, email or chat to get connected to the resources or collections, which was especially helpful to teachers and students. Staff also phoned older members of the library to just check in and some were thankful to learn about new ways to access the library online.

Weaver says her team at the library is fearless and collaborative in how they approach their work.

She credits support from her administration and green light from the library’s legal team with the success of the CDL at Hamilton. Management promotes the notion of a “freedom to fail card” to encourage risk-taking, which says she seized upon to embark on the practice. Also, the library got a legal option that it shared widely backing up the notion that it was well within the library’s right to participate. “Those two things really allowed us to step forward confidently with the Internet Archive in this project,” Weaver said.

Hamilton Public Library, Hamilton, Ontario.

Since 2019, Weaver has joined the call for wider acceptance of CDL. She has participated in several panel presentations with librarians to explain the details of CDL. She has also lobbied with others in Washington, D.C., making the case to lawmakers on Capitol Hill for policy that supports the practice. Weaver is known for her professionalism and thoughtfulness in promoting the benefit of CDL.

“The ‘c’ in CDL is controlled. One copy, one use,” Weaver said. “We already own these books. Why did we buy these books, if not, for the broader library community to access?  None of us are closing our libraries because we are running out of books, so doesn’t it make sense to share? Most people buy into that idea.”

Before joining HPL in 2018, Weaver was with the Toronto District School Board as manager of collections and extension services for 13 years. In that role, she coordinated operations with the largest library system in Canada and worked with diverse communities to expand digital access to learning materials for students. Weaver was honored by the Ontario School Library Association with the 2006 Mover and Shaker Award and the 2016 Award for Technical Service.

The motivation in all her work is simple: “I just really believe the library should be there for everyone, where they are and when they need it.”  

Librarians Kanta Kapoor and Lisa Radha Weaver to Receive 2021 Internet Archive Hero Award

Announced today at the Library Leaders Forum, librarians Kanta Kapoor (Manager, Support Services, Milton Public Library) and Lisa Radha Weaver (Director, Collections and Program Development, Hamilton Public Library) will each receive this year’s Internet Archive Hero Award for helping their communities stay connected to digital books during the pandemic. They will be presented their awards at next week’s Library Leaders Forum session—register now.

The Internet Archive Hero Award is an annual award that recognizes those who have exhibited leadership in making information available for digital learners all over the world. Previous recipients have included librarian and professor of law Michelle Wu, Phillips Academy, the Biodiversity Heritage Library, and the Grateful Dead.

This year, we were looking for libraries and librarians who rose to the challenge—this was the year that libraries and librarians have been needed like never before. We wanted to acknowledge the hard work of people who went above and beyond to meet the needs of their communities.

Kanta and Lisa both exemplify the spirit of an Internet Archive Hero:

  • They helped both of their organizations become early adopters of Controlled Digital Lending in 2019. Of course no one knew it at the time, but that early move helped their patrons stay connected to resources throughout library closures of 2020 and 2021 by already having tens of thousands of digitized books available through each library’s participation in the Internet Archive’s Open Libraries program.
  • They donated collections to the Internet Archive that no longer fit their library’s local collection development priorities, so that we could preserve and digitize the books, and make them available to digital learners everywhere. You can learn more about the theater books donated from Hamilton Public Library and the 30,000 books donated by Milton Public Library.
  • They were resources to their professional networks, acting as a point of reference for other librarians interested in learning more about Controlled Digital Lending.
  • They thought broadly about access to collections, considering not only, “What helps my local community?” but also, “What helps the global community?”

In addition to their shared achievements, they also brought their individual strengths to their work:

Kanta’s persistent, steady, and polite pushes—whether about donations logistics, joining Open Libraries, or offering suggestions to expand the program—are what it takes to make things happen. Kanta’s gracious and humble nature belie her steely resolve and approach to program advancement: Kanta just kept at it, politely, until she got the results that she thought was right for her library and her community.

Lisa has joined discussions about Controlled Digital Lending since 2019, participating in several panel presentations for librarians and even participating in discussions with US lawmakers and policy experts alongside ALA Annual in Washington, D.C. Lisa’s professionalism and thoughtfulness helped librarians new to the practice of Controlled Digital Lending understand how their library could benefit.

Celebrate

Join with us in celebrating Kanta and Lisa at next week’s Library Leaders Forum. Registration is free for the virtual event.

Library Leaders Forum
October 20 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET – Register now