Tag Archives: NEL

Teachers & the National Emergency Library: Stories from the Frontlines of Online Schooling

The numbers are staggering. According to UNESCO:

  • 91% of the world’s learners have been impacted by school closures.
  • 1,576,021,818 learners are cut off from their classrooms
  • 188 countries have shut down schools nationwide.

Obscured in those figures are the individual teachers, librarians and students struggling to carry on classroom instruction without the books they need. Since this pandemic began, we have heard from hundreds of them, reaching out to figure out some way to keep teaching and learning going in their town, church, library or home school. 

Here are some dispatches from teachers, librarians and students on the frontlines of online schooling.

Helping K-12 students connect with books

In one of the first states to shutter schools and order residents to shelter at home, Erin S. is a 6th grade teacher of history and English in Sacramento, California. She’s been scrambling to teach virtually a unit onThe Adventures of Ulysses by Bernard EvslinHer middle school has hundreds of copies of this book, locked away and now beyond reach.  We received this urgent message from Erin, signed, Desperate Teachers!:

During the COVID emergency, students can check out “Ulysses” and renew it after the two week lending period is over.

At our school site, we have enough copies of this book for all of the 6th-grade students (300).  However, since we are not allowed to come to campus to check these books out we were looking for online PDF or ‘checkout’ possibilities.

I came across your website and services, found the copy we are looking for, and it is amazing because it looks like an actual book instead of just a word document.  I checked it out, but then noticed it says I can only borrow it for 14 days. This unit takes us longer than 2 weeks and we also have a lot of students who need this book.  Is there a way to lift the restrictions to borrow this book while we are in school closure?  

I am so grateful and excited to share your services with our students.  Teachers are desperate for any and all help right now and luckily our communities and beyond are coming to the front lines to help advocate for us! We really appreciate all you have done to help us!

At Downtown College Prep school in San Jose, California, one hard-pressed instructor sent us this call for help:

I am an instructional coach at a middle school charter school in San Jose, CA. Currently all the schools in our area are shut down as I’m sure you are aware. I am also leading the teaching of our two 5th grade classes right now. Here is my problem. One of our fifth grade classes was sent home without books to read. The class that I have been teaching literacy in (we lost a teacher mid-year), I sent home with 4 books. Eventually these books are going to run out and I am desperate to get books in these kids hands…or on their screens.

For middle school teacher (and climber!), Terri S., teaching online often presents huge barriers.

Teacher Terri S. of Cloudcroft, NM writes:

I teach all of the 6th, 7th and 8th grade students in my district, and Quarter Four (the time we are in right now) is set aside for a novel study. I cannot pass out our classroom sets of novels and was looking for a way for students to read the books digitally. Your site is a Godsend. Thank you for your help.

From a 7th grade teacher in Fairfield, PA we received this request:

For 25 years, one teacher has taught his favorite novel, “The Pushcar War.”

I have taught “The Pushcart War” novel in my class for most of my 25 years in education, and it is my favorite novel. I notice that you have it on your website to borrow as well as listen.

With schools being shut down indefinitely in the state of Pennsylvania, I was not able to give each student a copy of this novel from my classroom before we closed, and I had no idea that schools would be shut down this long. Is there any way my students can have an Open Library account set up…in order for them to enjoy this book during this unprecedented time? 


About one hundred miles from the epicenter of the outbreak, in Franklinville, New Jersey, Anne Papiano is the Media Specialist for the Delsea Regional High School District. It’s April, but she’s already worrying about how to get summer reading list books to students in her district. Her district owns physical copies of these books, but if schools remain closed for the entire school year, she won’t be able to reach them. She explains:

Media Specialist, Anne Papiano, works close to COVID’s epicenters in New York and New Jersey.

Our students will be unable to check out our schools’ physical copies of the required summer reading books. I am writing to you to request that access to the National Emergency Library be extended throughout the summer (perhaps until September 2020). This will give students who do not have the means to purchase their own copies to have equitable access to digital copies…for their summer assignments.

Thank you for working on behalf of those of us who are promoting literacy, even through difficult times.

From college professors and librarians

The impact is not limited to public K-12 school students. In the University of Washington article, “Why the National Emergency Library Matters to Huskies,” UW Libraries answered this central question:

As a Librarian, how does this impact your work to facilitate e-book orders for classes?

UW Librarians have been fielding ebook requests for required textbooks over the last week. Before the Emergency Library was announced, Librarians faced a common challenge– in many cases, there was simply no multi-user ebook available for the Libraries to order — this changed dramatically with the opening of the National Emergency Library.

History Librarian, Theresa Mudrock says this has made a real difference, but challenges still exist.

“Today, I was able to inform 10 instructors that the books they needed were now available, whereas yesterday they were not,” said Mudrock.

Over at George Washington University in Washington, DC, history professor, Tyler Anbinder, explained how his students are using the National Emergency Library:

My students could not finish the semester without the National Emergency Library. It has been a total lifesaver. Not for books that are “in print” electronically. My library has been buying those.  But for all the 30 to 50-year-old books that are out of print but essential for doing good history research.


Professor Anbinder also shared this message with consent from a sophomore in his course on Abraham Lincoln, caught off guard without access to her university’s library for this week’s reading:

College sophomore, Meaghan Burnes, had to leave campus before checking out all the books she needs to complete her coursework this semester.

Dear Professor Anbinder,

I have spent the past two days searching every inch of my house to find my copy of Lincoln’s Quest for Union. After trying to think of any place where this book might have gone, I remembered that the reason I cannot find it is because I do not have it. I was planning on borrowing it from the library because I was not able to buy each book. I would have gotten it from Gelman before I left DC, but we were all under the impression that we would be returning to campus on April 5th. 

I am so sorry, this is a huge mistake on my part. How should I proceed with this?

Sincerely,

Meaghan Burnes

Professor Anbinder was able to send her directly to this copy in the National Emergency Library so Meaghan could do the class reading in time.

Another college librarian, Amanda Dinscore, from Fresno State Library, sent us this note:

Many thanks to you and your IA colleagues for the National Emergency Library. Just found a book for a faculty member who was really frustrated about not being able to access a print copy of a book that I immediately found on the NEL. Win!

Authors React

But what is a win for teachers, librarians and students, comes at a cost, some say, in lost book sales for publishers and authors. Katie Smith offered perspectives from both authors and learners in her article for Book & Film Globe, including this viewpoint from a writer and homeschooling parent:

Writer and parent Amber DeGrace cites the Internet Archive as pivotal in her ability to transition to homeschooling her children. “What makes the Internet Archive so beneficial for educational purposes is that many older or out-of-print books that might not be available on bookselling sites are readily available here,” she tells Book & Film Globe. “For instance, a recommended book for my kids’ history curriculum is Morning Girl by Michael Dorris. While I could have purchased it on Amazon, I can’t afford to buy all these supplemental resources, and our local libraries have been closed for weeks.” It was, however, available for borrowing in the National Emergency Library.

Even Professor Anbinder, who is enthusiastic about the availability of older literature in the National Emergency Library, closed his message acknowledging, “I certainly understand how the authors of recent books would be mad to find their books there.”

No one has criticized the National Emergency Library more forcefully than New York Times bestselling author, Chuck Wendig. So we appreciated this honest exchange following Wendig’s Terrible Minds blog, with a writer and public librarian named Rachel:

RACHEL

March 31, 2020 @ 11:39 AM

Your argument is very compelling. It will certainly make me rethink telling any patrons to take a look at the “emergency” library.

The only counterarguments I could offer are from problems we are having on this side of the publishing/reader process.

For example: as I am a fan, I have already purchased your books for my patrons the old-fashioned way. We own them. But no one can use them. Is that your problem? Eh– no. Because of this issue, though, I’ve spent $3,000 of my materials money this month buying digital versions of books we already own. And… that’s it. No more money. It took everything I have to buy all those stupid Erin Hunter books so middle schoolers will stop doing the unspeakable things middle schoolers do when left idle. Also not your problem– unless they start roving in 6th grade gangs a la The Warriors.

It would help if digital books weren’t insanely expensive. On average, an adult book costs me about $65. THEN, it can only be checked out 26 times. After 26 checkouts, it disappears from the collection and I have to buy it again. That’s $2.50 every time someone checks a book out. And digital readers have a bad habit of checking out multiple books at a time whether they read them or not because they don’t have to return them.

So I feel like THAT is the actual problem. And if digital providers weren’t trying to gouge the eyeballs out of public libraries, this conversation would be over.

Just some thoughts. Stay safe.

Reply

TERRIBLEMINDS
March 31, 2020 @ 11:54 AM

There is a huge issue with how pricing is set up, and different publishers have made that more (and in some cases less) difficult, in what I assume is an effort to promote print and not yield the field to digital. And there’s a big conversation to have in that, and about that, and authors have attempted (sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much) to facilitate a better deal for libraries on behalf of the author/publisher.

Lessons Learned

Last week we released a first look at some trends in use of the National Emergency Library.  Corroborating what we are hearing from professors, our patrons are seeking older books: more than 90% of the books borrowed were published more than 10 years ago and two-thirds were published during the 20th century.  Most patrons who borrow books from the National Emergency Library are reading them for less than 30 minutes, suggesting they are using the book for research as a reference check, or perhaps they are simply browsing as in a library or bookstore.

In the few weeks since the National Emergency Library was established, much has been said in the Twittersphere about the very real needs of publishers and authors. Completely missing in the debate are the voices of the 1,576,021,818 students worldwide cut off from their books—books already purchased by their schools, public libraries and community colleges. For a few weeks, until this educational and public health crisis subsides, the National Emergency Library is trying to help fill this void.

The National Emergency Library – Who Needs It? Who Reads It? Lessons from the First Two Weeks

At a time when every day can feel like a month, it’s hard to believe that the National Emergency Library has only existed for two weeks. Recognizing the unique challenges of connecting students and readers with books now on shelves they cannot reach, the Internet Archive loosened the restrictions on our controlled digital lending library to allow increased lending of materials. Reactions have been passionate, to say the least—elation by teachers able to  access our virtual stacks, concern by authors about the program’s impact, and fundamental questions about our role as a library in these dire times when one billion students worldwide are cut off from their classrooms and libraries.

For those of you who are being introduced to us for the first time due to the National Emergency Library: Welcome! The doors of the Internet Archive have been open for nearly 25 years and we’ve served hundreds of millions of visitors—we’ve always got room to welcome one more. And for those of you who have tracked our evolution through the years, we know you have questions.

When we turned off waitlists for our lending library on March 24th, it was in response to messages and requests we’d been getting from many sources—librarians who were closing their doors in response to lockdowns, school teachers who were concerned their students could no longer do research and discovery through the primary sources they had on campus, and organizations we respected who knew we had the capability to fill an unexpected gap. A need that we knew we could provide quickly in response.

We moved in “Internet Time” and the speed and swiftness of our solution surprised some and caught others off guard. In our rush to help we didn’t engage with the creator community and the ecosystem in which their works are made and published. We hear your concerns and we’ve taken action: the Internet Archive has added staff to our Patron Services team and we are responding quickly to the incoming requests to take books out of the National Emergency Library. While we can’t go back in time, we can move forward with more information and insight based on data the National Emergency Library has generated thus far.

The Internet Archive takes reader privacy seriously, so we don’t have specific analytics or logs to share (we took the government to court to assure we didn’t have to do that,) but we do have some general information that may be of use to authors, publishers and readers about the ways patrons are using the National Emergency Library. We will be sharing more in the coming weeks of this crisis.

Majority of books are borrowed for less than 30 minutes

Even with a preview function where readers can see the first few pages of a book, most people who go through the check out process are looking at the book for less than 30 minutes, with no more interactions until it is automatically returned two weeks later. We suspect that fewer than 10% of books borrowed are actually opened again after the first day (but we have more work to do to confirm this). Patrons may be using the checked-out book for fact checking or research, but we suspect a large number of people are browsing the book in a way similar to browsing library shelves.

The total number of books that are checked out and read is about the number of books borrowed from a town library

Trying to compare a physical check-out of a book with a digital check-out is difficult. Assuming that the number of physical books borrowed from a library corresponds to digitally borrowed books that are read after the first day, then the Internet Archive currently lends about as many as a US library that serves a population of about 30,000.

Our usage pattern may be more like a serendipitous walk through a bookstore or the library stacks. In the real world, a patron takes a book off the shelf, flips through to see if it’s of interest, and then either selects the book or puts it back on the shelf. However, in our virtual library, to flip fully through the book you have to borrow it. The large number of books that have no activity beyond the first few minutes of interaction suggest patrons are using our service to browse books.

90% of the books borrowed were published more than 10 years ago, two-thirds were published during the 20th century

The books in the National Emergency Library were published between 1925 and 5 years ago, because books older than that are in the public domain—out of copyright and fully downloadable. Books newer than 5 years are not in the National Emergency Library. Unlike the age of most books in bookstores, the books readers are borrowing are older books, with 10% being from the last 10 years. Two-thirds of these books were published during the 20th century.

And when people find what they need, it solves a problem, such as this subject librarian who found a book published in 1975:

A bit of Fun: Some of the least common subject catagories of borrowed books

These subject tags come from library catalog records and other annotations by organizations such as ISKME has done with the Universal School Library collection, assigned to aid search and discovery of resources for educators.

We’ll continue to glean and share what we can as this project continues and we hope that the needs that gave rise to the National Emergency Library come to an end soon.

Internet Archive responds: Why we released the National Emergency Library

"Sorry Library Closed sign" with reflection of library and campus in the glass.

Last Tuesday we launched a National Emergency Library—1.4M digitized books available to users without a waitlist—in response to the rolling wave of school and library closures that remain in place to date. We’ve received dozens of messages of thanks from teachers and school librarians, who can now help their students access books while their schools, school libraries, and public libraries are closed.

We’ve been asked why we suspended waitlists. On March 17, the American Library Association Executive Board took the extraordinary step to recommend that the nation’s libraries close in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. In doing so, for the first time in history, the entirety of the nation’s print collection housed in libraries is now unavailable, locked away indefinitely behind closed doors.  

This is a tremendous and historic outage.  According to IMLS FY17 Public Libraries survey (the last fiscal year for which data is publicly available), in FY17 there were more than 716 million physical books in US public libraries.  Using the same data, which shows a 2-3% decline in collection holdings per year, we can estimate that public libraries have approximately 650 million books on their shelves in 2020.  Right now, today, there are 650 million books that tax-paying citizens have paid to access that are sitting on shelves in closed libraries, inaccessible to them. And that’s just in public libraries.

And so, to meet this unprecedented need at a scale never before seen, we suspended waitlists on our lending collection.  As we anticipated, critics including the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers have released statements (here and here) condemning the National Emergency Library and the Internet Archive.  Both statements contain falsehoods that are being spread widely online. To counter the misinformation, we are addressing the most egregious points here and have also updated our FAQs.

One of the statements suggests you’ve acquired your books illegally. Is that true?
No. The books in the National Emergency Library have been acquired through purchase or donation, just like a traditional library.  The Internet Archive preserves and digitizes the books it owns and makes those scans available for users to borrow online, normally one at a time.  That borrowing threshold has been suspended through June 30, 2020, or the end of the US national emergency.

Is the Internet Archive a library?
Yes.  The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity and is recognized as a library by the government.

What is the legal basis for Internet Archive’s digital lending during normal times?
The concept and practice of controlled digital lending (CDL) has been around for about a decade. It is a lend-like-print system where the library loans out a digital version of a book it owns to one reader at a time, using the same technical protections that publishers use to prevent further redistribution. The legal doctrine underlying this system is fair use, as explained in the Position Statement on Controlled Digital Lending.

Does CDL violate federal law? What about appellate rulings?
No, and many copyright experts agree. CDL relies on a set of careful controls that are designed to mimic the traditional lending model of libraries. To quote from the White Paper on Controlled Digital Lending of Library Books:

“Our principal legal argument for controlled digital lending is that fair use— an “equitable rule of reason”—permits libraries to do online what they have always done with physical collections under the first sale doctrine: lend books. The first sale doctrine, codified in Section 109 of the Copyright Act, provides that anyone who legally acquires a copyrighted work from the copyright holder receives the right to sell, display, or otherwise dispose of that particular copy, notwithstanding the interests of the copyright owner. This is how libraries loan books.  Additionally, fair use ultimately asks, “whether the copyright law’s goal of promoting the Progress of Science and useful Arts would be better served by allowing the use than by preventing it.” In this case we believe it would be. Controlled digital lending as we conceive it is premised on the idea that libraries can embrace their traditional lending role to the digital environment. The system we propose maintains the market balance long-recognized by the courts and Congress as between rightsholders and libraries, and makes it possible for libraries to fulfill their “vital function in society” by enabling the lending of books to benefit the general learning, research, and intellectual enrichment of readers by allowing them limited and controlled digital access to materials online.”

Some have argued that the ReDigi case that held that commercially reselling iTunes music files is not a fair use “precludes” CDL. This is not true, and others have argued that this case actually makes the fair use case for CDL stronger.

How is the National Emergency Library different from the Internet Archive’s normal digital lending?
Because libraries around the country and globe are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Internet Archive has suspended our waitlists temporarily. This means that multiple readers can access a digital book simultaneously, yet still by borrowing the book, meaning that it is returned after 2 weeks and cannot be redistributed.  

Is the Internet Archive making these books available without restriction?
No. Readers who borrow a book from the National Emergency Library get it for only two weeks, and their access is disabled unless they check it out again. Internet Archive also uses the same technical protections that publishers use on their ebook offerings in order to prevent additional copies from being made or redistributed.

What about those who say we’re stealing from authors & publishers?
Libraries buy books or get them from donations and lend them out. This has been true and legal for centuries. The idea that this is stealing fundamentally misunderstands the role of libraries in the information ecosystem. As Professor Ariel Katz, in his paper Copyright, Exhaustion, and the Role of Libraries in the Ecosystem of Knowledge explains: 

“Historically, libraries predate copyright, and the institutional role of libraries and institutions of higher learning in the “promotion of science” and the “encouragement of learning” was acknowledged before legislators decided to grant authors exclusive rights in their writings. The historical precedence of libraries and the legal recognition of their public function cannot determine every contemporary copyright question, but this historical fact is not devoid of legal consequence… As long as the copyright ecosystem has a public purpose, then some of the functions that libraries perform are not only fundamental but also indispensable for attaining this purpose. Therefore, the legal rules … that allow libraries to perform these functions remain, and will continue to be, as integral to the copyright system as the copyright itself.” 

Do libraries have to ask authors or publishers to digitize their books?
No. Digitizing books to make accessible copies available to the visually impaired is explicitly allowed under 17 USC 121 in the US and around the world under the Marrakesh Treaty. Further, US courts have held that it is fair use for libraries to digitize books for various additional purposes. 

Have authors opted out?
Yes, we’ve had authors opt out.  We anticipated that would happen as well; in fact, we launched with clear instructions on how to opt out because we understand that authors and creators have been impacted by the same global pandemic that has shuttered libraries and left students without access to print books.  Our takedowns are completed quickly and the submitter is notified via email. 

Doesn’t my local library already provide access to all of these books?
No. The Internet Archive has focused our collecting on books published between the 1920s and early 2000s, the vast majority of which don’t have a commercially available ebook.  Our collection priorities have focused on the broad range of library books to support education and scholarship and have not focused on the latest best sellers that would be featured in a bookstore.

Further, there are approximately 650 million books in public libraries that are locked away and inaccessible during closures related to COVID-19.  Many of these are print books that don’t have an ebook equivalent except for the version we’ve scanned. For those books, the only way for a patron to access them while their library is closed is through our scanned copy.

I’ve looked at the books and they’re just images of the pages. I get better ebooks from my public library.
Yes, you do.  The Internet Archive takes a picture of each page of its books, and then makes those page images available in an online book reader and encrypted PDFs.  We also make encrypted EPUBs available, but they are based on uncorrected OCR, which has errors. The experience is inferior to what you’ve become accustomed to with Kindle devices.  We are making an accessible facsimile of the printed book available to users, not a high quality EPUB like you would find with a modern ebook.

What will happen after June 30 or the end of the US national emergency?
Waitlists will be suspended through June 30, 2020, or the end of the US national emergency, whichever is later.  After that, the waitlists will be reimplemented thus limiting the number of borrowable copies to those physical books owned and not being lent. 

Announcing a National Emergency Library to Provide Digitized Books to Students and the Public

To address our unprecedented global and immediate need for access to reading and research materials, as of today, March 24, 2020, the Internet Archive will suspend waitlists for the 1.4 million (and growing) books in our lending library by creating a National Emergency Library to serve the nation’s displaced learners. This suspension will run through June 30, 2020, or the end of the US national emergency, whichever is later. 

During the waitlist suspension, users will be able to borrow books from the National Emergency Library without joining a waitlist, ensuring that students will have access to assigned readings and library materials that the Internet Archive has digitized for the remainder of the US academic calendar, and that people who cannot physically access their local libraries because of closure or self-quarantine can continue to read and thrive during this time of crisis, keeping themselves and others safe.  

This library brings together all the books from Phillips Academy Andover and Marygrove College, and much of Trent University’s collections, along with over a million other books donated from other libraries to readers worldwide that are locked out of their libraries.

This is a response to the scores of inquiries from educators about the capacity of our lending system and the scale needed to meet classroom demands because of the closures. Working with librarians in the Boston area, led by Tom Blake of Boston Public Library, who gathered course reserves and reading lists from college and school libraries, we determined which of those books the Internet Archive had already digitized.  Through that work we quickly realized that our lending library wasn’t going to scale to meet the needs of a global community of displaced learners. To make a real difference for the nation and the world, we would have to take a bigger step.

“The library system, because of our national emergency, is coming to aid those that are forced to learn at home, ” said Brewster Kahle, Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive. “This was our dream for the original Internet coming to life: the Library at everyone’s fingertips.”

Public support for this emergency measure has come from over 100 individuals, libraries and universities across the world, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  “Ubiquitous access to open digital content has long been an important goal for MIT and MIT Libraries. Learning and research depend on it,” said Chris Bourg, Director of MIT Libraries. “In a global pandemic, robust digital lending options are key to a library’s ability to care for staff and the community, by allowing all of us to work remotely and maintain the recommended social distancing.”

We understand that we’re not going to be able to meet everyone’s needs; our collection, at 1.4 million modern books, is a fraction of the size of a large metropolitan library system or a great academic library. The books that we’ve digitized have been acquired with a focus on materials published during the 20th century, the vast majority of which do not have a commercially available ebook.  This means that while readers and students are able to access latest best sellers and popular titles through services like OverDrive and Hoopla, they don’t have access to the books that only exist in paper, sitting inaccessible on their library shelves. That’s where our collection fits in—we offer digital access to books, many of which are otherwise unavailable to the public while our schools and libraries are closed. In addition to the National Emergency Library, the Internet Archive also offers free public access to 2.5 million fully downloadable public domain books, which do not require waitlists to view.

We recognize that authors and publishers are going to be impacted by this global pandemic as well. We encourage all readers who are in a position to buy books to do so, ideally while also supporting your local bookstore. If they don’t have the book you need, then Amazon or Better World Books may have copies in print or digital formats. We hope that authors will support our effort to ensure temporary access to their work in this time of crisis. We are empowering authors to explicitly opt in and donate books to the National Emergency Library if we don’t have a copy. We are also making it easy for authors to contact us to take a book out of the library. Learn more in our FAQ.

A final note on calling this a “National Emergency” Library.  We lend to the world, including these books. We chose that language deliberately because we are pegging the suspension of the waitlists to the duration of the US national emergency.  Users all over the world have equal access to the books now available, regardless of their location.

How you can help:

  1. Read books, recommend books, and teach using books from the National Emergency Library
  2. Sponsor a book to be digitized and preserved
  3. Endorse this effort institutionally or individually
  4. Share news about the National Emergency Library with your social media followers using #NationalEmergencyLibrary

If you have additional questions, please check out our FAQ or contact Chris Freeland, Director of Open Libraries.

Update 3/30: To read our latest announcement about the National Emergency Library, please read our post Internet Archive responds: Why we released the National Emergency Library