For Meghan Kwast, having access to the Internet Archive helps her library staff at California Lutheran University operate more efficiently to better serve faculty and students.
Budgets and staffing limitations have forced Kwast to come up with some creative strategies to meet the needs of users. This includes tapping into the digital resources available through the Internet Archive—especially when there are requests for items not in the university stacks.
“While Interlibrary Loan is available for most scholars, delivery times can vary from a few days to several weeks,” said Kwast, head of collection management services at Cal Lutheran in Thousand Oaks, California. “For researchers and scholars, this is time lost. Internet Archive saves them from these delays.”
The broader, virtual collection often includes niche subjects titles that the Cal Lutheran library doesn’t carry. Also, providing digital, rather than print materials, reduces ILL shipping costs and avoids problems with physical deliveries due to weather, Kwast added.
‘A USEFUL TOOL’
For librarians like Kwast, the collections at the Internet Archive are helpful beyond connecting patrons with research materials. The Archive has been a useful tool in a campus project to evaluate the diversity of the Cal Lutheran print monograph collection.
Cal Lutheran enrolls about 3,200 undergraduate and graduate students in their College of Arts and Sciences, Bachelor’s Degree for Professionals, Graduate School of Education, School of Management, Graduate School of Psychology, and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary programs. The university operates across southern California, with its main campus in Thousand Oaks and satellite centers in Oxnard, Santa Maria and Westlake Village. The campus demographics have changed since it was founded in 1959—now students come from 59 countries, and the university is designated as a Hispanic Serving institution.
Kwast said she wanted to be intentional about ensuring the library collection reflects the current student population. Last year, the library embarked on an audit of authors represented in its collection. As Kwast’s team began to evaluate the authors, they relied on the Archive’s search engine to find books digitally, rather than having to physically pull them off the shelves.
“Internet Archive makes that process faster and more efficient for us,” Kwast said. “Having these materials digitized makes this project achievable. It makes it possible for us to serve today’s students.”
It was evident early in the assessment that most titles were written by white, cisgender men. Now, about halfway through the review, Kwast said the library discovered just 2 percent of authors were Hispanic/Latino, yet about 40 percent of the Cal Lutheran population identifies as Hispanic/Latino.
“Some students from these communities are still trying to see themselves in higher education or in the field that they’re pursuing. The voices in our collection should reflect the voices on our campus, helping students see themselves in the research process and the sources they use,” Kwast said. “Where our collections are now is not reflective of where our community is.”
Based on what was discovered in the author assessment, this fiscal year Cal Lutheran created a new item in its library budget specifically for purchasing books written by authors who are diverse by race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and ability. The library also started a diverse authors table to highlight some of these works, Kwast noted.
EQUITABLE POINTS OF ACCESS
The Internet Archive’s vast collection of digital resources is more needed than ever, Kwast added. During the pandemic, with limited access to their buildings, the Archive helped Cal Lutheran keep their library users connected. “Electronic resources and digital access to information are critical for public safety,” Kwast said.
Today, public libraries still have barriers to accessing materials, Kwast noted. Many of them require patrons to come on-site after registering for a card to verify identification and residence. For those without a home or those who work during normal business hours, this is an insurmountable challenge. Internet Archive removes some of those obstacles by providing 24-7 remote access from any location.
Documents that should be publicly available, such as those produced by Congress and public universities, are instead hidden behind paywalls and layers of complication, Kwast said. Internet Archive helps provide equitable points of access to information, which is a necessity today, Kwast said, regardless of a user’s income or ability.
“As librarians and information professionals, we are dealing with an information landscape that a lot of folks take for granted,” Kwast said, as digital collections are constantly changing with licensing limitations. “Just because [access] is not a problem for you as an individual does not mean it isn’t a very real issue that other folks face in their daily lives.”