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.
“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.