More Impacts of the National Emergency Library

Following our previous post, we have continued to receive messages about the impact of the National Emergency Library before it closed last week. If you’d like to share your story of how you used the NEL, please leave a testimonial.

The following statements are condensed from testimonials sent to the Internet Archive:

Betty A., Student

Betty A., Inkster, Michigan, Student: Betty writes that she “used the Internet Archive and the NEL for graduate course research, personal interests, and for assisting patrons. I am a graduate student as well as an Interlibrary Loan employee…and have found the NEL a necessary resource that has allowed my own personal research to progress during this time of crisis and as an option for searching materials that normally I’d have access to, if local and university libraries were open. The physical materials being unavailable have limited Interlibrary Loan success to strictly digital access. This has hindered many researchers and caused many loan requests that ordinarily would be fulfilled, to be cancelled.

The NEL has opened educational resources to those who had nowhere else to turn, had no way to gain access to the same materials that would otherwise be available if they had a library card, and allowed parents to assist their now home-schooled children in locating resources to complete their assignments by their required due dates. I personally cannot thank IA enough for the many ways the NEL has helped me and my constituents and community.”

“The NEL has opened educational resources to those who had nowhere else to turn”

Betty A., Michigan, Student

Tiger J., Arlington, Texas, Researcher: Tiger used the NEL “to locate otherwise inaccessible information related to Austrian refugees at the outset of WWII.” With the NEL, Tiger was able to find personal accounts and information about refugee activities after settling in the United States. “None of this turned up elsewhere on the Internet. The National Emergency Library has helped me to do deep, intensive research I’d never be able to do otherwise. Most of the materials are impossible to access because they’re out of print and not in the collections of any local libraries or impossible to borrow digitally from libraries that have a copy because they require memberships with certain institutions or have other restrictions that shut out large numbers of researchers.”

Ennis B., Metuchen, New Jersey, Student: Through the NEL, Ennis “learned so much about the LGBT history that has been deliberately kept from young people. Even separated from my physical community, I don’t feel alone, because I can read the zines, websites…written by LGBT people who have blazed a brave path before me.”

Edwin S., Researcher

Edwin S., Oslo, Norway, Researcher: “My research institute has a very limited library and with the library system shutdown around the world, the NEL was necessary to complete a research proposal for the Norwegian Research Council. We will be studying the history of pandemics and designing future public health heritage to increase awareness of the dangers of zoonotic pandemics while also reducing stigmatism of vulnerable populations. I would be completely unable to do my job and keep a steady income without the assistance of NEL. Being able to successfully apply for external funding is necessary to keep my institute afloat and me employed. I look forward to the day when online libraries will be the norm. This is an invaluable service that you provide to humanity.”

“[The NEL] made it easier to do copyright research for ebooks my company is publishing.”

Robert N., Texas, Author

Robert N., Katy, Texas, Author: Robert runs a small indie publishing ebook company and was enthusiastic about the NEL because “It made it easier to do copyright research for ebooks my company is publishing.” Robert is a previous user of Open Library, using it to research out-of-print books. “During the emergency unrestricted opening because of COVID, I used it to check on copyright, to find a Table of Contents of various poetry collections and short story collections.” The NEL helped Robert save time, and because of that time savings, “it will help me to publish additional ebooks.”

Manoj P., Gautam Buddh Nagar, India, Reader: Manoj used the NEL to research the topics of psychology & Ikeda Sensei’s books on Buddhism. “While I could satisfy a very insignificant amount of my appetite, yet at one time I felt so proud to be owning a library, my library of such books.”  The NEL has brought Manoj “great joy and happiness, just at the sight of books so rare and precious.”

“NEL was a real lifeline!”

Dimiter, Bulgaria, Reader

Dimiter, Bulgaria, Reader: Dimiter used the NEL extensively and found the availability of the NEL collections “enormously positive.” “The lock down here was very serious, the libraries and bookshops were closed down for more than 2 months. NEL was a real lifeline!”

Mayra M., Dallas, Texas, Reader: Mayra used the NEL for personal reading to stave off boredom during the pandemic.  “Thank you so much for what you did, with money being tight it was amazing to have this resource…I’m sad to see this ending.”

Mark D., Educator

Mark D., Lafayette, Louisiana, Educator: Mark writes, “Once the University of Louisiana at Lafayette shut down in March, I still had half a semester of a research-focused graduate class to teach. I was able to refer my students to the National Emergency Library to find books that would help them with their research papers. I also used the NEL for background research to help me prepare for class meetings.The National Emergency Library allowed my students access to authoritative books for their research papers at a time when other resources (our university’s library, including its interlibrary loan service) were not available.”

12 thoughts on “More Impacts of the National Emergency Library

  1. Jack El-Hai

    Nice. If I stole a bunch of cars off a dealer’s lot and loaned them out free to all comers I could pat myself on the back for similar benefits and generosity. Internet Archive did not own the ebooks it loaned, and it had no legal license to do anything with the intellectual property of copyright holders.

    Before the National Emergency Library pirate site, I was happy to financially support the mission of the Internet Archive. No more, and I urge other financial supporters to reconsider their donations.

    1. Cari machet


      Ideas are in the air

      We all share the air

      Someone like you would commodify air and monetize it too

      All those writers and thinkers owe billions of dollars to all that came before them if you want to talk money and compensation

      1. Jack El-Hai

        Have you ever studied copyright? If you had, you would know that ideas cannot be copyrighted. Nobody expects to copyright mere ideas.

        Only the *expression* of ideas can be copyrighted. And books, including ebooks, are unique expressions of ideas. They belong to the creator, a right in the U.S. enshrined in the Constitution. They aren’t comparable to the air.

    2. Ghod

      “…If I stole a bunch of cars off a dealer’s lot…”
      So…you’re accusing the archive of stealing books? The archive is quite transparent about how they obtain books, and also how they lend them. If you haven’t looked at that, then you really ought to, before accusing anyone of theft. Also, you claim to have financially supported the archive before the NEL, despite the fact that the only difference being that with the NEL, more than one person could check out a book at a time…and normally (like it is right now), only one at a time. This is not rational thinking on your part. If you really believe that the archive has been stealing books (what, you think they go into bookstores and libraries to shoplift?), then why were you happy to donate money?

      I seriously doubt that you ever donated anything to the archive.

      1. Jack El-Hai

        I assure you that I have been a past donor to the Internet Archive, and I give the IA permission to confirm that if they’d like.

        Do you not see the difference between loaning one electronic copy at a time (as genuine libraries do) and making available unlimited copies for an extended period (as pirating organizations do)?

        As for the idea expressed by another commenter that intellectual property is equivalent to knowledge, I ask that commenter to look again at the creative element essential to works of literature, narrative nonfiction, and many other forms of book-writing. What makes them distinctive is expression, not knowledge.

        1. Elli

          Regarding the idea that “What makes [intellectual property and knowledge] distinctive is expression, not knowledge”: Knowledge encompasses creative expression. Knowledge — all knowledge — is a human right, including the cultural knowledge of creative expression. A world purged of creative expression, leaving behind only the plainest forms of knowledge, is a bleak world indeed. “Intellectual property” creates such a world for those without the wealth and privilege it demands, reinforcing economic and class inequalities by disproportionately reducing access to and interaction with the world’s cultural, creative, and scientific knowledge.

          The notion that “intellectual property is equivalent to knowledge” appears to come from a misreading of my earlier comment. “Intellectual property” is a legal system that interacts with knowledge — knowledge in a broad sense, including forms of knowledge such as creative expression. Consider patents, for instance, which are explicitly designed to provide public access to knowledge, while simultaneously pillaging the commons by providing the creator a time-limited grant of the exclusive use of that knowledge.

          Authors and other artists and knowledge creators need to be able to survive, but the broken system of “intellectual property” rewards a few while leaving many desperate or impoverished. For that meager reward to come at the cost of the world’s right to culture, science, and other knowledge is indefensible. It is imperative that “intellectual property” be eliminated, and an effective framework be constructed to support artists and knowledge creators without fettering the access to or interaction with knowledge.

          Knowledge, creative or otherwise, is never morally “property”, no matter how much political institutions and lobbyists may try to convince one it is.

          “Intellectual property” is not property, but stolen goods, taken from the world, and hoarded by the wealthy and powerful.

    3. Elli

      Knowledge is a human right. “Intellectual property” is theft from the commons: a violation of that fundamental right to knowledge. It is merely a poor workaround for the failure of society to otherwise support knowledge creators, clumsily compensating them in a paltry benefit that is grossly outweighed by the loss of what is taken from the commons.

      The National Emergency Library deserves only the greatest accolade and gratitude.

  2. پارسی موزیک

    According to researcher Edwin S., Oslo, Norway:
    Online book readers can be very effective and useful due to the current situation, and I strongly agree that the culture of online book readers should be implemented in different countries so that people who are interested in reading books can use these facilities.

  3. Kimberly

    During the shutdown from the Pandemic I used the NEL to check out an elementary school reading text book for my son who is just learning to read. It was an older copy from what they have in school but similar enough that it was familiar to him and gave him the mind connection to real school and encouraged him to keep up with his efforts. I feel this has improved his reading immensely. I can’t imagine how we could have borrowed a copy (especially in the beginning when the school didn’t even have a sound plan and they aren’t digital like some yet) without the NEL. Normal lending is limited and has wait lists which would have not only been inconvenient in this case but would have made it hard to keep up daily work. Imagine having to wait 18 days before someone else returns so you can go to your next lesson. It was a teacher edition as well so that was also a big help for me. I also used NEL to read some books on teaching reading and we found some basic beginner books to strive for reading in the near future. Now that things are reopened here more it is easier and once our schools figured some things out there were more options, but I really appreciated the NEL being an option for us when we needed it. Thank you.
    I don’t feel in anyway that anyone lost profits from a few months of people having books available to anyone who needed them. Most people who go for free things in my experience do so because they can’t or won’t buy it anyway. True seekers of knowledge or book lovers are the kind who do go buy lots of books and when you see a company support you in your time of need or difficulty that is the companies you want to give your business to. I’ve maybe borrowed or read about 5 books during the lockdown from NEL. I bought about 10 kindle books (not free ones) during the same time. A good writer or publisher will make sales if they put out quality. Non-fiction and educational materials and information should be free and available to all in some format. This is how we help build people up so they can achieve a better life. The limited borrowing is a good thing during normal times, but during a shutdown and with so many people out of school or work and the ability to access libraries, I think NEL was a very needed and essential thing.
    I hope any lawsuits are dropped and publishers and authors, etc know that their work is appreciated and those of us who can buy books will show them with our wallets so they realize the NEL and availability of knowledge to everyone isn’t going to make them go bankrupt. If you can buy a book- do it. If you can’t then be glad we are fortunate enough to have resources available from others generosity- especially during a really hard time for most everyone all over the world.

  4. ایران نوا

    I strongly agree that the culture of online book readers should be implemented in different countries so that people who are interested in reading books can use these facilities

  5. David Gleason

    Many of the books available before the publisher objection arrived were no longer in print and seldom available at public libraries. The general public, and most students don’t have access to those books even without a pandemic.

    Today, public libraries are reducing the number of books they have and those that are seldom called for are disposed of. This makes it hard for those with a study or general interest in a narrow or limited subject to find any book on their subject.

    Out of print books should be considered to be in the public domain. Many special interest books that are unavailable unless one has university library privileges should also be placed in the electronic public domain.

    We, in fact, need new laws that take into account the huge and ongoing explosion of publications in the last few decades. Many books about technology are outdated. Many on other subjects are superseded. Textbooks have new editions to conform with changing state requirements. All these facts support very short lifespans for anything but novels that are no longer in print.

    Copyrights should, in a well defined area of publishing, have similar lifespans to patents. That gives great access via the Internet to publications that do not merit new editions but which are of interest to students, historians and those examining the past.

    We are in an era of extreme and rapid change. I believe that the book publishers who filed against the Internet Archive may have unleashed a Perfect Storm which will have an impact on them far beyond what they are trying to protect during a time of need.

  6. ایران نوا

    Online book readers can be very effective and useful due to the current situation, and I strongly agree that the culture of online book readers should be implemented in different countries so that people who are interested in reading books can use these facilities.

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