Author Archives: Caralee Adams

As Calls to Ban Books Intensify, Digital Librarians Offer Perspective

Image credit: Roger Nomer | The Joplin Globe

From Texas to Virginia to Pennsylvania, there is a growing movement to challenge books in schools that some suggest are inappropriate for students. Concern goes beyond explicit content; it now includes opposition to LGBTQIA material, the history of racism, and material that may cause discomfort to readers.

While efforts to ban books are not new, the solutions to counter censorship are—thanks to technology that is used to create access for all. 

The Internet Archive’s Open Library (https://openlibrary.org) does not face the same local pressures that many school districts or school libraries do. At a time when students and teachers may be encountering limited access to content in their local community, the Internet Archive acquires and digitizes material for its online library, and lends a wide array of books for free to anyone, anytime.

For example, the American Library Association’s list of most challenged books in the past decade are available in a curated collection. Among the titles: The Glass Castle by Jennette Walls, banned for offensive language and sexually explicit content; The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, cited as being insensitive, anti-family and violent; and Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin, challenged for its LGBTQIA content and the perceived effects on young people who would read it. 

Books dealing with gay and trans rights have long been targeted in school libraries. There are more than 1,800 titles in Open Library’s LGBTQ Collection—sorted, searchable and available to borrow online for free. Many of the novels, memoirs and works of history are not otherwise accessible to people who live in rural areas or places where those materials are explicitly banned. 

Browse Open Library’s LGBTQ Collection, one of the many curated collections available through Open Library.

New Challenges, New Responses

The new efforts to ban books are taking a much broader view of limiting access. Across the country, some objectors say books like Beloved by Toni Morrison, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988, should not be discussed or available in schools. As these lists are made public, Open Library’s volunteer team of Open Librarians take action to ensure that these books remain accessible to all.

Recently, Open Library created a collection of books removed from circulation in the Goddard School District in Kansas. It includes The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Fences by August Wilson, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1987. A small collection of banned books from Alaska’s Mat-Su Valley features Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitgerald.

View the collection of 850 books challenged in Texas.

Open Library’s lead community librarian, Lisa Seaberg, is curating a collection of 850 books that have recently been challenged in Texas. Among the books targeted are ones that mention human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, contain material that might make students feel uncomfortable or distressed because of their race or sex or convey that a student, by virtue of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive. 

What’s become caught up in this “wide net,” said Seaberg, are books about health education, teen pregnancy, civics, philosophy, religion, anthropology, inventions, encyclopedias and, ironically, a novel about book censorship in a high school. Those who favor removing certain books see an opportunity and momentum, she said, but the difference in this moment is that libraries are able to provide access to titles regardless of where the reader is located. 

One reason books get banned is because political forces within an area become stronger than the populace, said Mek, who leads the Open Library team for the Internet Archive. “Open Library is trying to bridge these inequity gaps across geographies and social classes. We invite the populace to come together and participate in a digital sanctuary where our rich and diverse cultural heritage isn’t subject to censorship by the few with special interests.”

“[T]here’s a difference between sharing an opinion and robbing someone of the opportunity to form their own.”

Mek, Open Library team lead

At the most basic level, banning books is about restricting access to knowledge, said Lisa Petrides, chief executive officer and founder of the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME). 

“The impact of this on schools means that students are exposed to a limited set of world views, which is extremely detrimental to critical thinking, reflective analysis and discussion,” said Petrides. “Perhaps even more importantly as we are seeing today, this means that educators and librarians are increasingly put in difficult situations, having to face the threat of reprisal from administrators or school boards, who are themselves increasingly less willing to stand up for the First Amendment rights of their teachers and learners.”   

The Path Forward

Everyone’s perspectives should matter and be represented in the democratic process. A library must offer diverse materials so people can draw their own conclusions, said Mek.  He embraces the oft-cited quote from librarian Jo Godwin: “A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone.”

“It’s important for informed members of society to share their opinions,” he says. “But there’s a difference between sharing an opinion and robbing someone of the opportunity to form their own. To change hearts and minds, write a compelling book—don’t take authors you disagree with off the shelves. The Open Library community is honoring these values by giving contested titles their spots back on the shelf.”

Seaberg says, hopefully, recent book challenges will ultimately fail and access to a range of books will be restored. “If students walk into a library and they have books that only present one side of an issue, or are only relatable to a certain group in a culture, it excludes a lot of people,” she says. “They might not even know this other content exists.”


You can browse a full list of Open Library’s curated collections here. To volunteer for Open Library and help curate collections, please visit https://openlibrary.org/volunteer#librarian.

Looking Back at the Million Book Project

Years ago, many people rejected the idea of reading a book on a screen. Fortunately, others had a vision for the potential of digitizing the world’s knowledge.

One of those pioneers was Carnegie Mellon Professor Raj Reddy. The Internet Archive recently hosted a virtual event to honor him and celebrate the 20th anniversary of his Million Book Project that included Reddy, Vint Cerf of Google, Moriel Schottlender of the Wikimedia Foundation, Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive, Mike Furlough of HaithiTrust, and Liz Ridolfo of the University of Toronto.

Since Reddy’s dream of providing universal access to all human knowledge—instantly to anyone, anywhere in the world—others have embraced the mission.  Advocates of mass digitization discussed the tremendous impact that open access to creative works online has had on society, the challenges ahead, and potential, if more books are unleashed.

“There are tens of millions of digitized books available on the internet now. Many of these are born digital. Many more are being converted from print copies,” said Mike Furlough, executive director at HathiTrust, which has a collection of 17.5 million digital books. “This is really a human accomplishment that represents decades, if not centuries, of intellectual labor, physical labor to steward and preserve these items.”

Reddy said he knew his vision two decades ago was just the beginning and there is a huge amount of room to improve the utility of digital works. “It’s time for us to put our heads together to find a way to create digital libraries and archives that are far more useful than what we have today,” he said.

Many agreed more must be done to expand efforts, build a sustainable infrastructure and raise awareness of the shifting role of libraries to provide digital materials.

“I think we should ask more questions: What aren’t we digitizing? What are the economic or political forces that are constraining our choices and what corrective measures can we take?”

Mike Furlough, executive director, HathiTrust

Internet Archive Founder Brewster Kahle said Reddy was right that bringing our full history online for the next generation is important, but it’s not been easy technically or institutionally.

“If we’ve ever wondered why you’d want digital books, the year 2020 told us why. The global pandemic hit and shut down school libraries, public libraries, and college libraries,” Kahle said. “We got calls from professors, teachers and homeschoolers, desperate to find some way in their Zoom classrooms to bring books to kids.”

The Internet Archive responded, explaining how libraries could extend access digitally to books that were in their physical collections. This helped make a big difference on the ground, and Kahle says policies are changing so libraries are confident in serving their digital learners. For instance, as libraries spend $12 billion a year on materials, Kahle said they should be able to purchase (not lease) e-books to fulfill their mission of service to users.

There was also a push among panelists for digitization to be more inclusive of works from all kinds of authors, recognizing what is being scanned is what’s already been obtained by libraries. “I think we should ask more questions: What aren’t we digitizing? What are the economic or political forces that are constraining our choices and what corrective measures can we take?” Furlough said.

The future interaction with knowledge involves the digitization of books and expanding the diversity of voices is critical, said Moriel Schottlender, principal system architect with the Wikimedia Foundation.

“Making resources available to anyone online is key and this is really what we’re striving for,” said Schottlender, noting Wikipedia’s mission is to be a beacon of factual information that is verifiable, neutral and transparent. “Our goal is that everyone in the world should be able to contribute to the sum of all knowledge. But not everyone has equal access to knowledge, to books, to journals, to libraries, to educational materials…We use digitization to increase equity.”

“Our goal is that everyone in the world should be able to contribute to the sum of all knowledge. But not everyone has equal access to knowledge…We use digitization to increase equity.”

Moriel Schottlender, principal system architect, Wikimedia Foundation

There is growing demand for all kinds of digital information, said Liz Ridolfo, special collections projects librarian at University of Toronto Libraries.. Donors want items digitized for a variety of reasons including to protect rare items, to reach a broader audience, and to free up physical space for other materials. Especially during the pandemic, Ridolfo said, it has been useful to have a curated collection of online teaching and reference materials.

Vint Cerf, vice president and internet evangelist at Google, said people are increasingly going online to get answers to questions—often turning to YouTube to view how-to videos. That demand for “just-in-time learning” is not a substitute for long-form content, he said, but it’s an interesting phenomenon that may draw people to the internet to learn more.

Looking ahead, Reddy said there is a need for big change to address the broken copyright law. His aspiration is that by 2031, there will be a frictionless, streamlined copyright regime, in which authors register for no fee, but can extend the copyright of a work indefinitely if they want by paying a prescribed fee. For users, he proposes access to copyright material for fair use in less than five minutes. They could pay a required fee, as prescribed by the data for a single copy use. If the copyright is not registered with the national digital library, then fines for copyright violations of unregistered copyright material should be nominal.

“Let’s take Raj’s vision here and make it come true,” Kahle said. “Who should argue against the streamline system where fair uses are easy. Where compensation is understood, where there’s registration and the actual copyrighted materials are in repositories that are long-term protected. Let’s just do this.”

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.”  

“Jump Cut” is a Model Open Journal: Digitized from Microfilm & Hosted on Archive.org

Jump Cut” is a model for open access journals. When the Internet Archive digitized older issues of “Jump Cut” from microfilm, we found that it had already been posted, in textual form, by the publisher. When we reached out to see if we could open up the microfilm version for free public access and download, they were enthusiastic. Here we wanted to share more background on “Jump Cut” and why openness is important for them.

Selection of covers from Jump Cut, now online from scanned microfilm at archive.org.

From the beginning, Jump Cut was all about being accessible and uncensored.

Now, the alternative media criticism journal has achieved maximum exposure: All of its back issues are available digitally for free through the Internet Archive.

John Hess, Chuck Kleinhans, and Julia Lesage launched the publication when they were graduate students at Indiana University in 1974. At first, they produced it themselves on typewriters and distributed it on inexpensive, tabloid newsprint.

“It was positioned as a counter-culture journal. Their impetus for creating it was to provide a voice to the disenfranchised, those not normally published in academic journals,” said Jeremy Butler, professor emeritus of TV and film studies at the University of Alabama. “This has involved writers from left perspective, underrepresented people of color, LGBTQ writers and others.”

Jump Cut has never accepted advertising and being independent has always been its driving principle. It is a cross between an arcane scholarly journal and a pop culture film criticism magazine that covers a range of topics, such as pornography, that would be considered taboo in mainstream publications, said Butler, who has written for the journal himself.

The journal uses language that is familiar to academics, but not too obscure as to turn off readers. As a peer-reviewed journal, Jump Cut is an avenue for scholars—particularly junior faculty with diverse perspectives—to publish and earn citation credits.

In 2004, the journal moved online and discovered an international audience. After Hess and Kleinhans died, Lesage wanted to preserve the publication’s history and plan for its future.

“There’s so much that’s invisible in our culture, so much that’s hidden behind structural and class divides.”

Jeremy Butler, professor emeritus of TV and film studies at the University of Alabama

Butler, who was a doctoral student of Kleinhans at Northwestern University and recently retired from Alabama, helped Lesage convert and archive some of the text from older issues of Jump Cut. The Internet Archive provided a home for the files as an institutional host. Recently, as part of a microfilm digitizing effort, the Archive scanned images, photos and text from all 59 issues of Jump Cut and made them available in a collection.

“Our goal was always to reach as many people as possible,” says Lesage, who says she was “totally ecstatic” to learn the entire collection was preserved by the Archive. “Now people will be able to see the images that we ran with those early articles.”

In addition to the journals, Kleinhans and Lesage have had syllabi and lecture notes from a variety of film and media courses they taught digitized and added to the Internet Archive collection. “I’ve tried to encourage scholars to archive their own papers and research materials,” says Lesage, who hopes the collection will be used by students, teachers and researchers. “It’s a treasure that scholars should take advantage of and not leave it to their heirs to try and decide what to do with all these boxes of papers.”

Butler, who is  a regular user of the Wayback Machine, movies and audio files through the Archive for his own research and enjoyment, said preserving the course materials and the complete Jump Cut collection is exciting for scholars and the public at large.

“It provides access to voices that people would not normally hear,” Butler said of broader new availability of the media studies journal. “There’s so much that’s invisible in our culture, so much that’s hidden behind structural and class divides. Jump Cut has prided itself on providing a voice to the unspoken…It might open up a whole new world to readers that they never even knew existed.”

Access to Rare Historical Materials Makes an Ocean of Difference for Stanford Professor

The kind of materials that Stanford English professor Margaret Cohen uses in her work, including the history of ocean travel in the period known as the “Age of Sail,” can be difficult to find.

Professor Margaret Cohen, Andrew B. Hammond Professor of French Language, Literature, and Civilization and Director, Center for the Study of the Novel at Stanford University.

Books and illustrations from the 18th and 19th centuries needed in her research and teaching are often tucked away in rare book collections. For about five years, Cohen has been turning to the Internet Archive for help. And that access was even more critical during the pandemic when physical libraries were closed.

“It’s really enriched the arguments I can make about cultural history,” Cohen said. “The availability of documents and the very intensive work of tracking these down has become so much easier. The Internet Archive is a very user-friendly tool.”

The Biodiversity Heritage Library has been a resource to Cohen in teaching her English class, Imagining the Ocean. She has discovered manuals from Philip Henry Gosse, who created the first public aquarium, envisioning them as beautiful ocean gardens.  Cohen also shares her screen with students to discuss drawings of the sails, seashore and sea-anemones from the Victorian Age that she accesses through the Archive.

Actinologia britannica, 1860, Plate V.

“Access to the history of science is useful to me. I’m a literature professor, but the imagination spans across different areas,” said Cohen, the Andrew B. Hammond Professor of French Language, Literature, and Civilization and Director, Center for the Study of the Novel.

In her own research of oceanic studies, Cohen explores the importance of diversity and reality in marine environments. She tapped into the Internet Archive to fact-check information for A Cultural History of the Sea, (Bloomsbury, April 2021), a six-volume series that she edited chronicling the vital role oceans have played over time.

In researching her upcoming book, The Underwater Eye: How the Movie Camera Opened the Depths and Unleashed New Realms of Fantasy to be published by Princeton University Press, Cohen said the Wayback Machine was critical in confirming sources on websites that were no longer live.

Punch, 1879, Vol 76

The Sci-Fi/Horror collection of the Internet Archive has been useful to Cohen in teaching a course on Gothic film—especially since YouTube recently took down many of its films in that genre, she said.

Much of the material Cohen is looking for is in the public domain (such as Punch, a satirical British magazine that dates back to the mid-1800s ) but the documents are fragile because of their age. She has also  appreciated being able to borrow classic books of literary criticism, such as the collection on novel studies that supports her graduate course, Genres of the Novel. 

 “People’s time is limited and having access to this material facilitates scholarship,” Cohen said of the benefits of digitized documents. “I understand why publishers need to make money and I publish myself, but free access to information, particularly for nonprofit use, is a gift.”

Graduate Student: Internet Archive an “absolutely indispensable resource”

Although Casey Patterson spent much of the COVID-19 lockdown in a dank San Francisco basement apartment, he says he felt lucky in many ways.

The graduate student in English from Stanford University stayed healthy and—despite not having physical access to a library—was able to research his dissertation, teach classes, and prepare for job interviews. This was possible because of online access to materials through the Internet Archive.

Graduate student and educator, Casey Patterson

Patterson, who is entering the sixth year of his doctoral program, offered to teach an online African American literature class to undergraduates as soon as COVID-19 shut down the campus and the university shifted to virtual instruction.

“I just felt a degree of duty to sign up for a lot of teaching. I wanted to be able to support students and knew the transition to online education was going to be rocky,” said Patterson, who also taught an Intro to Black Studies course during the pandemic. “It was chaotic. Obviously, we had a really tough time trying to figure out how to keep students engaged and make education a humane process.”

Instead of expecting students to buy several books, and without the ability for them to check out books in a library, Patterson turned to the Internet Archive. Patterson found works of Black critics such as Toni Morrison and C.L.R. James and their writings about 19th century authors Edgar Allen Poe and Herman Melville to use in class. He downloaded classics including Moby Dick and Huckleberry Finn to the Canvas learning management system and made them immediately available to students.

“Using the Internet Archive, I could lay hands on basically everything I needed. It was an absolutely indispensable resource at the time.”

Casey Patterson, graduate student

“It’s super helpful when you’re asking students to read 10 short passages from three different novels,” Patterson said of using the Internet Archive. “It would be cruel to ask them to buy all of the books or track them down to the library. This way you put them right at the students’ fingertips.”

Patterson also relied on text from the Internet Archive for his own research. For his dissertation, he is examining the role of educational history as a way of understanding African American literary studies and the institutionalization of Black studies as a discipline.

This spring, he interviewed for an academic job in which he was asked to prepare a lesson plan syllabus for a teaching demonstration. Having access to The Book of American Negro Poetry, works of African-American poet Phillis Wheatley, and essays by Alice Walker enabled Patterson to put together materials from the convenience of his apartment on a tight deadline.

Selection of poems by Georgia Douglas Johnson from “The Book of American Negro Poetry” (1922).

“Using the Internet Archive, I could lay hands on basically everything I needed,” Patterson said. “It was an absolutely indispensable resource at the time,” he says.

In the summer of 2019, Patterson had used the Internet Archive in his Fandom research, another area of interest. He’d run across a citation to a website that was no longer available online and was able to track it down through the Wayback Machine. But since the pandemic, Patterson says he’s come to value the Internet Archive for its collection of primary sources.

“Knowledge is for everybody. The more we can do to break down the barriers that make it inaccessible, the better off everyone is,” said Patterson. “The Internet Archive is one great example of how we can do that almost with a click of a button.”

Reading Online Books a “Highlight” for Students During Pandemic

Motivating students to stay engaged with online instruction can take some creativity.

Working at a special education learning center in Los Angeles, Luca Messarra found the promise of choosing a book to read for fun after a lesson kept his 9- to 11-year-old kids going. Although access to physical books was limited during the pandemic, he found digital versions in the Internet Archive that made all the difference.

Educator and graduate student Luca Messarra.

Messarra’s individual work with students moved online in March 2020, in the early days of the pandemic. He continued to help them learn to read and write by doing drills remotely, using online instruction materials provided by the learning center. It did not have access to digital works of fiction, but Messarra says those were the books that most excited the students.

“That was the most fun because it was an opportunity for them to see the fruits of their labor. They could read a book, finally,” says the 25-year-old who lives in Palo Alto. “It’s far more entertaining to read a book than to do drills over and over again. That was the highlight for a lot of students—to finally be able to read a book of their own choosing.”

Since wrapping up his job at the learning center, Messarra has been enrolled in a graduate English program at Stanford University where he is specializing in digital humanities and postcolonialism.

Looking back on his teaching experience during the pandemic, Messarra says he values the resources from the Internet Archive. “It was incredibly helpful and quite essential to boost the morale of students. They were bored and frustrated because of the pandemic,” he says. “For one of my students, it was his goal to read Harry Potter. Once he was able to read it, he was super excited and eventually bought the book because he was having such a good time.”

Internet Archive Can Provide a New Home for your Beloved Books & Media: Details on Making a Physical Donation

When Marygrove College closed, they donated the entire library to the Internet Archive for preservation & digitization.

During the pandemic, perhaps you have been cleaning out some bookshelves in your house. Or maybe you are a librarian, planning to be back in your building for the first time in more than a year and restarting collection management activities.

If you are wondering what to do with your excess materials, the Internet Archive can help. The nonprofit library accepts donation books, records (CDs, LPs, 45rpm, 78rpm, cylinders), films, and microforms that it does not already have in its collection. The Archive preserves one copy of everything it receives and tries to find good homes for duplicates. Then, as funding allows, the Archive digitizes the materials and helps them reach a wider audience online.

“No donation is too far away or small to be considered by the Internet Archive.”

Liz Rosenberg, donations manager, Internet Archive

At a recent webinar, staff from the Archive explained the process for donating and  encouraged the public’s help as it works to provide universal access to everything ever published.

“No donation is too far away or small to be considered by the Internet Archive,” said Liz Rosenberg, donations manager. She has helped coordinate donations of entire libraries, including collections from Marygrove College in Detroit and Bay State College’s Boston Campus.

Donation Process

To find out more about what’s involved with physical donations, Rosenberg suggests going to the Help page for details about shipping instructions or dropping off donations smaller than about 20 boxes. All others are asked to complete a physical item donation form to provide all the information to make a larger donation happen, including where the items are located, an accurate count, and other special considerations for the offer.

Part of the donation of 18,000 records from a collector in Washington D.C.

Once submitted, staff begin the planning process to determine if the collection is in a format that can be accepted, if there are duplicates, and the project timeline. Arrangements then can be made for packing and shipping. In the case of larger collections, the Archive typically is able to provide assistance with transportation costs.

Sometimes donors pack their own items and then the Archive pays for the shipping. That was the case for a recent donation of 18,000 records from a music enthusiast in Washington D.C. The donor was looking for a “forever home” for his beloved vinyl and the Archive was happy to schedule a pickup and preserve the rare collection, Rosenberg said.

Why Donate?

For donations of 50 or more items, the Archive can create a collection to both honor the donor and make their donation accessible all in one place. “The ability to access all of their media in one place really reassures our donors that they will still have access to their items even once they’re no longer in their physical possession,” said Rosenberg. Some stories behind major contributions are covered by the Archive in its blog.

Better World Books, a socially responsible bookstore that has a longstanding relationship with the Internet Archive, regularly donates books for preservation and digitization. It receives many of its books from library partners around the world. The Archive accepts many materials that BWB will not.

Internet Archive team members having fun with the task of packing & shipping an entire library collection from Bay State College.

“We love more than anything to get large collections—entire intellectual units, such as a reference collection that is curated,” said Chris Freeland, a librarian who works at the Archive. “It helps us round out our collection, and helps our patrons. If someone has a collection that no longer fits their collection development priorities, think of Better World Book or the Internet Archive for those materials.”

The Archive is open to over-sized items, such as maps, and books that do not have to have an ISBN number. What about loose periodicals? The Archive does not want a few scattered issues but does have interest in long runs of a magazine.

Once digitized, patrons with print disabilities can access the materials and some are selected to be accessible via Controlled Digital Lending and for machine learning research. Together, we can achieve long term preservation and access to our collective cultural legacy.

Cooking Up a New Home for 33,000 Culinary and Hospitality Books

Centennial Hall Denver campus photo shoot April 2016. photo: Mike Cohea

Johnson & Wales University started as a business school in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1914, expanding over the years to offer 80 majors on multiple campuses.

In June 2021, declining enrollment led JWU to consolidate, closing its North Miami and Denver locations. This left the future of the university’s library collection at those sites in limbo. To save the collection, JWU Denver donated 33,000 books—primarily from its culinary and hospitality programs—to the Internet Archive to be preserved, digitized and many will be lent digitally.

Merrie Valliant, director of library services at JWU’s campus in Denver, curated the rich collection, encompassing titles dating back to the early 1900s. The hospitality section contains books on all aspects of the hotel and restaurant business including management, leadership, and accounting. There are books on menu planning, food science and nutrition. And the assortment of cookbooks covers global cuisines and novelties, including Balinese and Indonesian food, an Antarctic expedition cookbook from 1945 with recipes for penguins and walruses—and even books on just a single ingredient, such as strawberries.

“We had cookbooks from all countries, all states and every continent. If someone were to look for an interesting recipe of Jamaican jerk or a good creole recipe from Louisiana, they would be able to find it,” Valliant said.

“The Internet Archive is going to keep it alive…It’s truly the library of the future…”

Merrie Valliant, director of library services, JWU Denver

With JWU’s 12,000 students only attending classes now in Providence, Rhode Island, and Charlotte, North Carolina, the library needed to downsize, and donating was the best option, Valiant said. In addition to the hospitality books, the donation included books on sports and event management, as well as books on criminal justice, business, law, history and fashion design.

The collection is clearly a treasure, said Liz Rosenberg, manager of donations for the Internet Archive.

“Merrie had been the librarian caring for these books for the past 20 years and she shared her hope that more students might be able to continue being inspired by the collection,” Rosenberg said. “Her dedication to the library at the Johnson and Wales Denver campus and her students was what got the Internet Archive so excited about preserving this great collection. We are pleased it can live on digitally.”

Pallets of books from JWU Denver staged for transport.

In May, Valliant, student workers, and volunteers helped fill more than 900 boxes with books from the Denver library. The 45 pallets were transported to the Internet Archive where they will be preserved and queued for scanning. “I had cataloged and touched almost every book on the shelf,” Valliant said. “It really was difficult to watch it being driven away. It felt like a family saying goodbye to a distinct part of their life.”

Yet, the books will have a future audience for years to come.

“The Internet Archive is going to keep it alive,” Valliant said. “It’s truly the library of the future where you can access it 24/7/365 when you need it.  I think it’s wonderful that we’ve been able to contribute to that collection of information.”

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If you have a collection that you would like to make available to all, the Internet Archive would be happy to preserve and digitize your materials:

  • Check out our help center article for more information about donating physical items to the Internet Archive.
  • Watch the recent webinar about our physical donations program.