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 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 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.
In response to the global COVID-19 outbreak and related public health concerns, libraries across the nation are closing or scaling back service (see Fremont, Nebraska’s Keene Memorial Library closure; Seattle Public Library’s reduction in programs and bookmobile service). While Overdrive, Hoopla, and other streaming services provide patrons access to latest best sellers and popular titles, the long tail of reading and research materials available deep within a library’s print collection are often not available through these large commercial services. What this means is that when libraries face closures in times of crisis, patrons are left with access to only a fraction of the materials that the library holds in its collection.
Open Libraries helps individuals & libraries alike, in the following ways:
For individuals: Individual readers have access to all of the books that Internet Archive has digitized, including 1.4 million modern books. An Internet Archive library card is free and gives users the ability to check out 5 digitized books at a time. Browse our collection today and start reading immediately!
For libraries: Think of Open Libraries as your digital branch library. The 1.4 million books we’ve digitized are available for you to claim and lend to your patrons. The process is simple: join Open Libraries and then share your library catalog with us to find out which of your books we’ve already digitized. We’ll give you a link to those books that you can incorporate back into your catalog, helping your patrons locate these digitized books from within your library catalog and local search. Join today.
“I feel that, sadly, the College is closing, but the library is not. It is re-emerging in a different form.” —Mary Kickham-Samy, Director of Geschke Library, Marygrove College
In June of this year, Marygrove College announced that the graduate college, located in Detroit, would close on December 17.
Founded in 1905 by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary congregation (SSIHM, or IHM for short), the college has operated out of its Detroit campus for 92 years. Facing financial difficulties in 2017, the college closed its undergraduate programs, but continued to offer its graduate programs in education, human resource management, and social justice. Unfortunately the college was unable to attract the additional students required to keep programs in operation, and the decision to close was made this spring.
Beyond the challenges of what would happen with the grounds and buildings (which will continue to be used for educational purposes), a key question for administrators was “What will happen to the library?” With more than 70,000 books and nearly 3,000 journal volumes, the Geschke Library is a well-curated, world class collection with strengths in the humanities, education, and social justice. The collection reflects the strong historical and cultural influences of the city of Detroit, bringing a uniquely African-American perspective into the light. After a thorough review of possible options, Marygrove College President Dr. Elizabeth Burns and college administrators decided that the entirety of the library’s collection would be donated to the Internet Archive so that the materials could be digitized and made available to students and researchers all over the world.
I had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Burns and Mary Kickham-Samy, Director of Geschke Library, by email about the work they are doing to ensure that the legacy of Marygrove College will live on. What follows is a poignant reflection on the library’s closure with an optimistic view towards its digital future, and what it means for the local Marygrove College community and scholars across the globe.
Chris Freeland: Dr. Burns, how did Marygrove College determine that Internet Archive was the best home for the collection?
Elizabeth Burns: The College explored several options for the disposition of the collection. We wanted to preserve as many books as possible and also be true to the IHM ideal of sustainability and care for the Earth (IHM is our sponsoring order of Catholic nuns, based in Monroe, MI). We didn’t want the majority of the volumes to end up in a landfill. The concept of both preserving the collection and having it available to all was endorsed by the Board. While some are grieving the removal of the book and materials, most welcome the idea of online availability. In this way, the collection that was carefully built over the years by Sisters Claudia and Anna Mary, along with other library directors, will live on. We are pleased to have this as a legacy.
What does it mean for students anywhere in the world that the library will continue to be available online?
Burns: Marygrove College has always been committed to education and outreach. Our sponsoring congregation, the IHMs, have started schools all over the world. Our graduates have also taught in many parts of the world. To have the collection available to students means that the Marygrove mission will continue. We hope that our collection, especially the Detroit collection and the Social Justice collection will be of use to scholars and to students of all ages.
How about from your perspective as a librarian, Mary? What does it mean for researchers that the library will still be available?
Mary Kickham-Sandy: Students everywhere will not only gain free access to a wealth of information and resources, but they may also gain a greater awareness of the legacy of Marygrove College, as well as the culture and history of Detroit. Also, many local libraries in Michigan do not have the scope of books about Michigan that Marygrove has. So, by digitizing the Marygrove Library collection, Michigan students will have greater access to resources about their state.
Mary, as a fellow librarian myself, it’s difficult to consider closure. What’s it like to close a library?
Kickham-Samy: When I began my career as a librarian in 1998, I did not imagine that one day I would be responsible for closing a library, especially one as mature, robust, and cherished as the Geschke Library of Marygrove College. I feel that, sadly, the College is closing, but the library is not. It is re-emerging in a different form.
What considerations were you making about the collection?
Kickham-Samy: I had two main concerns: the legacy of Marygrove College and the cultural importance of the Library to the neighborhood and the larger community of Detroit. A couple [of] community members expressed discomfort with the idea that the Library would be removed from the neighborhood and from the city. I consulted with librarians at Wayne State University (WSU) about the possibility of housing the Detroit and Michigan books in the WSU library system. However, after some discussions, we reached a consensus that the collection would be more accessible in a digitized format.
Dr. Burns, I’m sure that Marygrove College’s closing was extremely difficult news for your alumni. What does it mean to alums that the library will continue to be available online?
Burns: When this possibility was announced at the all-class reunion in September, they were overjoyed. They feared that the collection would be lost forever. The fact that it will continue to be available as a living legacy is important to them.
Finally, to both of you, what is your hope for the collection?
Burns: My hope is that it will be useful for scholars and for students across the globe. I also hope that some will be curious about the College and the IHMs and will read the College’s history and understand the work done in Detroit for over 90 years. The work of education goes on and I’m grateful to the Internet Archive for allowing us to participate in this important endeavor.
Kickham-Samy: My hope is that the Internet Archive will elegantly display the depth, breadth, and beauty of the Marygrove College Library collection. I hope that those who view our collection will not only find the information they seek, but will also witness and appreciate the College mission to promote social justice through activism, a theme that runs through the development of the collection from its early days until its final one.
Last month a crew organized by the Internet Archive packed and moved the contents of the library into 5 shipping containers and sent them to our Physical Archive facilities in Richmond, California. Yesterday the first container of books was sent to be digitized in our scanning facility, with the resulting digital books appearing online in 2020. While we mourn the closure of Marygrove College, we are grateful to play a role in preserving the legacy of Marygrove College and the Geschke Library for generations to come
Announced today, Better World Books, the world’s leading socially conscious online bookseller, is now owned by Better World Libraries, a mission-aligned, not-for-profit organization that is affiliated with longtime partner, the Internet Archive. This groundbreaking partnership will allow both organizations to pursue their collective mission of making knowledge universally accessible to readers everywhere. This new relationship will provide additional resources and newfound synergies backed by a shared enthusiasm for advancing global literacy. Together, the two organizations are expanding the digital frontier of book preservation to ensure books are accessible to all for generations to come.
This new relationship will allow Better World Books to provide a steady stream of books to be digitized by the Internet Archive, thereby growing its digital holdings to millions of books. Libraries that work alongside Better World Books will now make a bigger impact than ever. Any book that does not yet exist in digital form will go into a pipeline for future digitization, preservation and access. According to Brewster Kahle, Founder and Digital Librarian at the Internet Archive, “The Better World Books origin story is inspiring, and the service they provide to libraries is invaluable. These are our kind of people. We share their values, and we are proud to partner with Better World Books and libraries around the world to promote the goal of universal access to all knowledge.”
Better World Books was born in 2003, when a group of recent college graduates sold their used textbooks online. Their success eventually led to the creation of a revolutionary new business model where used books are collected primarily from libraries, booksellers, colleges, and universities in six countries and then are either resold online, donated or recycled. To date, Better World Books has donated almost 27 million books worldwide, has raised close to $29 million for libraries and literacy, and has saved more than 326 million books from landfills. With the backing of the not-for-profit Better World Libraries, Better World Books will enhance these valuable services to libraries and readers.
According to Jim Michalko, former president of The Research Libraries Group, Inc., and a Better World Books board member, “This new relationship is a win for the library community. One of the biggest challenges facing libraries today is responsibly removing materials from their shelves so they can bring in more desirable materials or repurpose space to fit community needs. Better World Books has always been a trusted partner in this activity. Now, libraries can provide books to Better World Books knowing that a digital copy will be created and preserved if one doesn’t yet exist. That’s responsible collection management.”
The Internet Archive has long been committed to digitizing books and library materials so they can be accessed by users all over the world. Through digitization, these materials can be used by researchers in large-scale, data-driven computing investigations, preserved in both digital and physical form, and where appropriate, loaned to readers.
Dustin Holland, the newly appointed President and CEO of Better World Books, underscores, “We exist to make a difference in the world, and our customers make that possible. We are honored to join the Internet Archive family, and our partnership allows us to extract the maximum value out of every book we collect at scale, while continuing to delight readers all over the world.”
Better World Books remains the bookstore that customers know and love, with its operations now enhanced for the services it offers to libraries and readers alike. Shop with confidence and help us celebrate this exciting new partnership with a 10% discount on purchases made through the end of the year using discount code “BWBIA”. At checkout, you will have an opportunity to round up your purchase amount to benefit the Internet Archive and directly support our mission.
For more about the Internet Archive click here. For more about Better World Books click here.
The following blog post was written by freelance writer Caralee Adams about the Internet Archive’s Library Leaders Forum, held on October 23 at San Francisco Public Library.
As enthusiasm grows for making library collections more accessible, the Internet Archive hosted an event to build a community of practice around Controlled Digital Lending (CDL). A diverse group gathered for the 2019 Library Leaders Forum Oct. 23 to share stories and strategies for libraries to expand their reach by lending out digital books based on their physical collections.
Why is this important?
“At the Internet Archive, we have a strong belief that everyone deserves to learn. We want to offer up the greatest digital library the Internet has ever seen to the world for free,” said Chris Freeland, Director of the Internet Archives’ Open Libraries program. “We think that everyone, regardless of where they live, should have ready access to a great library. More importantly, we think it should be available on phones and mobile devices that people turn to today. We want to make sure they have access to vetted, trusted information that’s held in libraries.”
The mantra of CDL: “Own one, loan one.” The idea is that a library can make a choice of lending either a physical copy or a digital version of a book.
The Internet Archive has been doing CDL since 2011, beginning with the Boston Public Library. Now two dozen other libraries of all sizes in the U.S. and Canada have embraced the model. Librarians from some of those institutions spoke about their passion for the practice at the forum.
The meeting provided an overview of the legal issues, policy considerations, and examples of CDL in action. The appeal to library leaders gathered was to endorse CDL, join Open Libraries, donate books to the Internet Archive for scanning, and volunteer to help with a new serials project.
Helping libraries see what’s possible
Michael Lambert, City Librarian at the San Francisco Public Library, which hosted the event, shared his institution’s experience as an early partner with the Internet Archive on Open Libraries and CDL. Beginning with city government documents and historical materials, SFPL created an entire scanning department. To date, the library has digitized 13,000 books and documents with the Internet Archive, which have received over 7.5 million views. Since November 2018, SFPL has donated 30,000 copyrighted books to the Internet Archive as part of its community distribution program.
“Having this alternative virtual lending site as an option has been great,” Lambert said. ”Librarians have been able to confidently weed excess, outdated materials from our collection, secure in knowledge that the books will not disappear, but rather have a new life where people around the world can read and research the materials that SFPL has meticulously collected over the decades.”
The Internet Archive embodies library values: persistence, comprehensiveness and accessibility, said Lambert. “The Archive has become a crucial part of the broad library information eco-system,” he said. “They have provided examples that have challenged traditional libraries. The Internet Archive helps other libraries see what’s possible.”
What Internet Archive Founder Brewster Kahle hopes is possible is digitization will allow more online sources to be linked to books, providing people trust information.
“If Wikipedia is the encyclopedia of the Internet, we are trying to build the library of the Internet,” Kahle explained at the forum. “Let’s make it really easy for people to go deeper.”
So far, the Internet Archive has turned 122,000 references on Wikipedia to digitized book links through its online library. Still, a century of books is missing after 1923 because of copyright laws. Kahle called on libraries to help fill that gap.
As part of that strategy, the Internet Archive is trying to institutionalize CDL, a practice that has been successfully working in a handful of libraries for eight years with no negative pushback. Yet, it has not been widely embraced. Kahle appealed to libraries to endorse CDL and donate books for scanning to address the larger goal of universal access to knowledge.
Framing the approach
The forum hosted experts to explain the legal underpinnings of CDL and discuss how the concept fits into the overall push to level the playing field for access to information.
Lila Bailey of the Internet Archive moderated a conversation with Kyle Courtney, Copyright Advisor at Harvard University, David Hansen, Associate University Librarian at Duke University, and Michelle Wu, Associate Dean for Library Services and Professor of Law at the Georgetown Law Library in Washington, D.C.
They have written a paper spelling out how libraries can practice CDL within the confines the fair use doctrine in current copyright law. Copyright law established in 1976 and dating back to 1950 does not reflect the digital reality today and it should allow flexibility for libraries to lend out one book at a time – no matter what the format – digital or print, they maintain.
To garner broad support for the concept of CDL, John Bergmayer of the nonprofit, Public Knowledge, spoke about the need to build relationships with lawmakers and educate them on the issue. This summer, he led a group engaged in CDL to The Hill in Washington, D.C. to brief members of Congress and their aides on the importance of expanding access to library materials through CDL.
“You have to make a project matter to the politicians,” explained Bergmayer. In the case of CDL, it’s about outlining the benefits of providing access to rural patrons, protecting materials from damage from disasters, saving libraries money, and helping K-12 school libraries, among others. “You want to get people to do the right thing for their reasons, not your reason — and show how your issue affects voters.”
Heather Joseph, Executive Director of the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), said CDL fits into the larger open agenda that advocates for unrestricted access to research. “It’s a vision based on opportunity,” said Joseph. “An old tradition and a new technology have converged to make possible an unprecedented public good.”
Now more than ever, in an era of “fake news,” and “alternative facts,” free, immediate access to high-quality vetted, source material is crucial for scholars, scientists, students, journalists, policymakers – everyone, she said.
“CDL is a pragmatic, incremental step towards open that operates in a way that’s respectful of libraries current operations and of copyright. It moves the needle towards open,” said Joseph. “CDL can contribute to collective movement towards a full vision of open access to knowledge.”
Opening Doors for Students
Making digital books more widely available to students has the potential for remedying inequities in education. Nationwide, public school districts have lost 20 percent of their libraries and librarians in recent years. Lisa Petrides, founder of the non-profit Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, has embraced CDL as a model to build a Universal School Library (USL) and connect students – particularly from under-resources schools — to relevant materials that increasingly are digital.
“CDL holds the potential to broaden access to knowledge in public schools in a way that schools haven’t even begun to tap,” said Petrides, who is trying to curate an inclusive collection of 15,000 high-quality digitized books. “We are taking an equity lens in terms of diversity.”
The Detroit School of Arts will be piloting USL and Librarian Karen Lemmons said she was excited to be able to offer her high school students books they can access while they are on the go. “This might give them an opportunity to read in between practices. They can pull out their phone and read a few pages. It’s mobile and flexible,” said Lemmon, noting that reading is closely linked to student achievement. “Our students really do want to be the best.”
Lemmons said she wants to be a model for other urban schools. “We want to be a driving force to get other libraries involved,” said Lemmons. “This is a data-driven district and we will need data to show reading more makes a difference in student performance.”
When the prestigious Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, recently was doing a $20 million renovation to its library, the Internet Archive approached it about digitizing their collection. The library already had its books packed on pallets, but instead of storing them decided to have them all scanned, explained Michael Barker, Director of Academy Research, Information and Library Services.
“We had this very well-intentioned idea to create a space for learners of the 21st century. It’s all good. It is a space of immense privilege. But it takes a vision to think well beyond our campus to say that belongs to every learner. That opportunity is to digitize the entire collection – that’s why we are all in,” said Barker of the school’s decision to participate in CDL “It goes to the heart of what Phillips was founded on. This school is for youth from every quarter and we try to live out that ideal as a private school for a public purpose.”
Next, Barker said he would like to see peer prep schools join the CDL model to further expand access to schools without the same resources.
CDL in Action
As the first library to use the CDL approach, the Boston Public Library recently extended its offerings by scanning its historic Alice Jordan Collection of 250,000 children’s books that were in storage. It has also digitized city directories, cookbooks and other fact-based documents in its catalog. Recently, it got permission from Boston-based publisher Houghton Mifflin to digitize its entire trade collection that is housed at BPL.
Expanding its CDL involvement, BPL’s Tom Blake challenged participants to bring another partner library next year to the forum.
“This the first time, I feel like it’s less about digitization and scanning and more about us, as librarians, leveraging not just our collections, but our historical collection policies with each other,” said Blake, who has been attending the library leaders forum for 10 years.
In discussing how to improve the CDL process, meeting participants suggested adjusting the amount of time users checked out titles and allowing for short-term loans. Perhaps smarter return and wait-list notifications could be developed to encourage faster processing of books. Others said re-branding Digital Rights Management (DRM) software with a different moniker to that would be more appealing to librarians.
In Sonoma County, California, Geoffrey Skinner said its 14 public library branches have just starting to participate in CDL. It first scanned documents in the history and genealogy library, then digitized its specialized wine library.
“We are doing a massive weed of our closed stacks. By taking those material to the Internet Archive, we will have digital access back,” said Skinner. Having library materials online will benefit many of the county’s rural users who otherwise travel far to access the physical books and provide access for print-disabled patrons.
Justin Gardner, Special Collections Librarian at the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky, said digitizing 9,000 books in its collection has preserved rare and fragile documents, including books autographed by Helen Keller. Also, being located in Kentucky, it gives people interested in their materials from anywhere.
“We are becoming the go-to place for visual impairment materials,” said Gardner. Now these research documents are in an accessible form for people who have visual impairments and have never been able to read these materials before they were digitized.
At the forum, Mike Buschman of the Washington State Library announced that the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) voted to endorse CDL. “It feels like it’s entering a new, good phase – a traction phase,” he said.
Kahle emphasized the need for CDL to be a community project and build a deeper collection. “We have to brave up,” he said. “We just act in good faith. We aren’t pirates. We are trying to do the right thing.”
Chief Librarian and CEO at the Hamilton Public Library in Canada Paul Takala said his institution is an enthusiastic supporter of CDL. With a long history of innovation, moving forward with digitizing is the right move – despite the technical challenges – to make information more accessible to patrons, he said.
“Deeper collaboration is needed. It’s hard to get adequate resources,” said Takala. “As a library community, we are generally risk adverse. When we talk about CDL, I think we need to take a more balanced view….If we make what’s available in our community to other communities – and others make their collections available – then everyone wins.”
Dale Askey, Vice Provost at the University of Alberta, said he liked Takala’s challenge to pull more Canadian institutions past their risk aversion to embrace CDL. “It’s great to see people aligning behind these principles and taking this to scale,” said Askey, whose university has scanned an historic collection of education materials with zero negative impact. “There is a strong history and impulse at the university to do things with maximum benefit to the largest possible community.”
Princeton Theological Seminary is piloting CDL and it has created a secure area in its library for the physical collection, so that when a digital copy is checked out that the physical copy will reside there. Participating the program has great potential benefits for the seminary’s reach, according to Managing Director of the Library Evelyn Frangakis.
“The PTS comprehensive theological collection is in high demand and the CDL library allows increased accessibility to all users, including those with various print disabilities,” said Frangakis. “I think CLD is gaining momentum. That’s really heartening for broad access to the materials that we are able to contribute to this program. It’s going to continue to grow.”
Ross Mounce, Director of Open Access Programmes at Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin in London, said he was encouraged by participation in the forum and said action points were clear and institutions can choose their level of engagement.
“It’s nice seeing things moving forward. At the end of the day, it just makes sense,” said Mounce of CDL. “If you own a physical copy of a book, you should be able to loan a digital version of it. Libraries should be able to lend books.”
Added Wu of Georgetown: “I’m delighted there has been a lot more buy in in recent years. The voices and the participants are much more diverse. Libraries [like Phillips] are willing to go all in and that’s remarkable. It is true that if we get more of those, I think we will see a true movement across the nation.”
This is the first in a series of blog posts highlighting how libraries and publishers are addressing the challenges of providing digital access to materials in their print collections. Using controlled digital lending, libraries and publishers have a new model for making their printed works available in digital form in ways that protect their copyrighted materials and intellectual property. Future posts will feature examples of how libraries, publishers, and authors are utilizing controlled digital lending to reach their patrons and readers, and the impact that controlled digital lending is having for their mission-driven work.
The Internet Archive believes passionately that access to knowledge is a fundamental human right. Knowledge makes us stronger and more resilient; it provides pathways to education and the means to secure a job. But for many learners, distance, time, cost or disability pose daunting barriers to the information in physical books.
“To provide universal access to all knowledge, we need digital versions of books,” said Internet Archive Founder Brewster Kahle. “People will learn from what they get a hold of and we need high quality information – the best – accessible to everyone.”
Digitizing books has been at the core of the Internet Archive’s work for years. Since 2004, Internet Archive has partnered with more than 500 libraries to digitize and make accessible nearly 4 million books, most of which are in the public domain and therefore easily published online without restrictions for use or reuse. To address the challenge of providing access to materials that are still in copyright, in 2011 Internet Archive began to pilot a service with Boston Public Library, the nation’s oldest and first municipally funded library, to digitize and lend in-copyright books. Over the past eight years, the effort has expanded into the Open Libraries program, which now offers more than 1 million modern digitized books that can be checked out, one at a time, by readers all over the world for free. More than two dozen libraries – large and small, public and academic – are now partnering with the Archive to provide access to these materials at no additional cost to their patrons. It is a collaborative effort that is harnessing the creativity of the library community.
How controlled digital lending works
Lending digitized versions of in-copyright books to online users is supported by copyright scholars, who coined the term controlled digital lending in 2017 and described the legal framework in a Position Statement and supporting White Paper. With controlled digital lending, libraries can identify which of the books in their collection Internet Archive has already digitized, and where there’s a match, libraries can lend a digital copy instead of the physical copy on their shelves. The “control” in controlled digital lending comes via digital rights management software and protected file access which ensures that the copyright material can’t be redistributed; it is available to one user at a time, just like a printed book.
Because the access model is digital and online, controlled digital lending makes it possible for rural libraries to reach patrons with transportation issues who were previously unable to make it into a branch. Controlled digital lending allows patrons to read fragile and rare books that can’t circulate because of their value or condition. It is bringing new life to old titles that have been tucked away in storage or long out of print with no digital edition. And, it is transforming the information ecosystem and reigniting enthusiasm for libraries as the trusted place for knowledge in our current era of disinformation.
“If we don’t do this, some of the problems we are seeing with fake news will only continue,” Kahle said. “If there is no acceptable record, then history can just be rewritten with a blog post.”
Impact and future direction
Because the majority of the published works of the 20th century are not available online, the Internet Archive is prioritizing digitizing materials from the 20th century that are highly referenced on Wikipedia, included in course syllabi, and widely held in libraries. If the internet is the go-to place for information, then there needs to be a wide range of materials available. The goal is to provide access to a world-class library to all digital learners around the globe, enabling individuals and communities to raise and empower an educated citizenry. Having historical books digitized, for example those that chronicle the Civil Rights movement or World War II history, gives readers context for contemporary issues in our global society.
Adds Kahle: “Let’s bring back the breadth of the public library. Let’s bring back the wonder of being able to go into a library and have access to materials and new and different tools…I want to deliver on the promise of a better library system for our kids.”
-Chris Freeland, Internet Archive, and Caralee Adams, SPARC
“In today’s rapidly changing access to digital content, it is important that the broader library community works together to build lasting and growing collections of digital content for our customers and communities,” said Paul Takala, Chief Librarian and CEO of Hamilton Public Library. “The Internet Archive has developed a responsible and balanced controlled digital lending (CDL) model. I look forward to a future where all the unique titles we have in our collection – many of which are out of print – can be shared with researchers and learners everywhere. With the Internet Archive’s Open Libraries program, this future is now possible. I encourage all libraries to join this important effort.”
Internet Archive’s Open Libraries program uses controlled digital lending (CDL) to deliver nearly one million volumes of digitized texts to readers and researchers all over the world. Controlled digital lending is a process by which libraries can lend print books to patrons in digitized form, and has been described by copyright experts from major research libraries. Through CDL, libraries use controls to ensure an “owned-to-loaned” ratio, meaning the library circulates the exact number of copies of a specific title it owns, regardless of format, putting controls in place to prevent users from redistributing or copying the digitized version. CDL is not meant to replace existing licensing agreements for modern ebooks; instead, CDL helps libraries provide access to twentieth century publications that don’t have an electronic equivalent.
Participating in Open Libraries is easy. After signing on to the program, libraries share their catalogs with Internet Archive and our engineers perform an overlap analysis to determine the physical books in a library’s collection that match the books we have digitized. Where there’s a match, the Internet Archive returns links and catalog records to the digital book so that the library can include these in their catalog.
If your library is interested in learning more about the Open Libraries program, please consider joining one of our upcoming webinars:
Following eighteen months of work, more than 50,000 78rpm record “sides” from the Boston Public Library’s sound archives have now been digitized and made freely available online by the Internet Archive.
”This project and the very generous support and diversity of expertise that converged to make it possible, all ensure the Library’s sound collections are not only preserved but made accessible to a much broader audience than would otherwise ever have been possible, all in the spirit of Free to All.” said David Leonard, President of the Boston Public LIbrary.
In 2017, the Boston Public Library transferred their sound archives to the Internet Archive so that the materials could be reformatted digitally and preserved physically. Working in collaboration with George Blood LP, using their specialty turntable and expert staff, these recordings have been digitized at high standards so that others can use these materials for research. This is now the largest collection within the Great 78 Project, which aims to bring hundreds of thousands of 78rpm recordings to the Internet.
The records within BPL’s collection represent early twentieth century music and sound recordings from both popular and obscure artists. 78s were made from shellac, a resin secreted from female beetles, and are incredibly brittle and delicate; records can break from simple handling. Digitizing these records is therefore the best way to preserve not only the music on the recordings but also the original artifact itself, ensuring the continued availability of the resource into the future.
After the recordings were digitized, volunteers with the Internet Archive and the Archive of Contemporary Music linked the sides to published discographies using a mix of manual techniques and custom algorithms to find dates and context. As a result of these activities, more than 80% of the sides now have dates or links to contemporaneous reviews. Additionally, more than 250 have been matched to sheet music and displayed alongside the music, based on the digitized collections from Connecticut College.
As a result of project activities, more than 750 different labels are represented in the collection, spanning from 1901 to 1966. Highlights of the collection include early American jazz and blues recordings, such as 11 sides from the renowned Paramount Records, originally founded by the Wisconsin Chair Company.
At an event at the Boston Public Library last month, Brewster Kahle, the Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive, presented the digital files from the 50,000 sides to David Leonard, the President of the Boston Public Library. With the return of the digital files, BPL was able to unlock access to the materials in a form that won’t damage the originals, ensuring the long-term viability of the 78s and the music recorded on them. The project was featured on-air during the Boston Public Radio program the next day, including samples from the recordings.
How can you get involved?
The Internet Archive invites other individuals and institutions to participate in this program by:
Donating 78rpm records to the Internet Archive, where the they will be preserved and digitized as funding allows (and funding for mass digitization is now available);
Digitizing your 78’s with the same careful but cost-effective technologies from George Blood LP and then contribute the digital files, but retain the physical discs.
We would like to emphasize that “reformatting” library collections by donating the physical objects to the Internet Archive can be a model for cost effective modern access and physical preservation. To learn more about library reformatting, please contact Chris Freeland, Director of Open Libraries.
This project was funded by the Kahle/Austin Foundation.
On October 18 more than 50 library leaders from across the U.S. and Canada joined us at our headquarters in San Francisco for our Open Libraries Forum. We’ve been holding an annual forum for more than ten years, using the opportunity to bring together thought leaders from across library communities and cultural heritage organizations to envision a digital future for our collections and services.
This year we focused specifically on advancing the Open Libraries program, and its vision of digitizing four million modern books. Discussions focused on the legal and operational issues related to delivering digital books and services for the print disabled community; integrating our controlled digital lending service with emerging ebook platforms and consortia; and building a digital library that is widely used, frequently cited, and representative of the diverse voices in our communities. To learn more about the discussions, we’ve assembled the breakout reports given at the end of the day in a publicly available Google Doc.
As the Director of Open Libraries, I learned a tremendous amount from the participants about how Open Libraries can be used in their institutions, and the needs they have in communicating the value of Open Libraries to their stakeholders, peers, and patrons. Given time to reflect on the day in full, I’ve summarized four main takeaways:
Get the word out
We need to continue promoting Open Libraries through education, marketing, and investing in communities.
We should provide FAQs, tools, and training to help libraries and users get the most out of Open Libraries.
Invest in our partnerships
We need to be at the meetings where likely adopters gather, and collaborate with partners we need for service integration.
We need to be very clear about what services and features are on offer.
We should use steering groups and existing networks as two-way methods for communication.
We should use inclusion as a lens on all aspects of Open Libraries by investing in and partnering with underrepresented communities.
Learn from our users
We need to understand who our users are & their research/reading needs (collections as well as tools).
We need fewer switches between platforms and services to provide a coherent experience for our patrons.
We need analytics of what’s being used in an environment that respects reader privacy.
Enhance our tools
We need tools for communities and institutions to customize ways of viewing content in Open Libraries, as well as to sort and find content by format, subject, theme, and institution.
We need tools that encourage libraries to participate by solving existing problems—to improve operations (such as managing waitlists), to collaborate in collection development, and to enable community curation.
We need greater visibility of what APIs are available and how to consume machine-readable data from Open Libraries.
Open Libraries & you
If you are a librarian who is interested in learning how Open Libraries can benefit your patrons, please visit: http://openlibraries.online
The recent nomination and appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court offered a timely opportunity to demonstrate how controlled digital lending can be used by libraries to circulate digital copies of books that are out of print or not widely held. The basic premise of controlled digital lending is “own one, loan one”—rather than loaning a physical book in their collection, libraries can choose instead to loan a scanned version of that book to one user at a time, while the physical book remains on the shelf.
A key player during the confirmation hearing was Mark Judge, a friend of Kavanaugh’s who wrote the book Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk, describing his raucous, alcohol-fueled high school years. Judge’s memoir was published in 1997 by Hazelden Publishing, the publishing arm of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, which runs the recovery centers where Judge was treated for addiction. The book had a limited print run and subsequent shelf life—it was not widely held by libraries outside of those focusing on addiction and recovery. Interest skyrocketed once Judge’s book entered the public consciousness, but because the book was no longer being sold by the publisher and used copies were scarce, when available at all, its price on Amazon.com topped out just under $2,000. Boston Public Library (BPL), a long-time scanning partner with Internet Archive, located a copy of Wasted in their research stacks. Those books are only available for use within the library, so the book was never going to circulate. Tom Blake, Manager of Content Discovery at BPL, sent the book down to be scanned by Internet Archive book scanners in their in-house digitization center. Internet Archive staff digitized the book using the same procedures and equipment that have been used to digitize more than 55,000 books from BPL’s collection since the partnership with Internet Archive began in 2007. Using existing workflows and post-production processes, the physical book was scanned and turned into a digital book complete with page images, OCR text, and mobile-friendly formats before being placed online at https://archive.org/details/wastedtalesofgen00judg. Wasted is currently still under copyright but out-of-print. BPL reached out to the publisher, Hazelden, to ask whether Wasted could be made available digitally without restrictions. In the years after the book was published, however, copyright had reverted from the publisher back to Judge, so Hazelden was unable to grant permission. Because BPL wanted to fulfill its mission in providing access to a book of cultural and political significance, BPL put the non-circulating copy it owns into Internet Archive’s controlled digital lending service, where it can be digitally loaned to users one-at-a-time. Books in controlled digital lending follow the same circulation patterns as those in a traditional library; a user has access to the book for 14 days, and if a book is checked out users can join a waitlist for their turn to read it.
As BPL’s copy of the book was being digitized and published online, two electronic copies of Wasted were uploaded to the Internet Archive’s Community Texts collection, which does not have the same access restrictions as controlled digital lending. Instead, user uploads are governed by the Internet Archive’s Copyright Policy. One copy was noticed by Twitter users and its URL was widely circulated online, drawing considerable interest from the public and media. At this point, there were three copies of Wasted available: two uploaded by users into Community Texts with no access restrictions, and one scanned by BPL and available to one user at a time. During the few days that all three copies were online, several news outlets began noticing the different modes of access. Slate offered perhaps the best analysis of making Wasted available via controlled digital lending, reaching out to academics and legal scholars about the legality of the move, with the general agreement that the Archive’s actions were very likely to be legal.
Mark Judge eventually e-mailed Internet Archive and requested that the copies of Wasted be taken down. Internet Archive takes prompt action on takedown requests. In this case, given that the book was out-of-print, we made an appeal to him to allow the book to be made available without restriction. Judge denied our request, as he is working on plans for the book to be republished. Ultimately, we came to agreement that only the two openly downloadable copies in Community Texts would be removed; the copy made available from BPL through controlled digital lending would remain online.
Before the two unrestricted copies were taken down, they were viewed more than 27,000 times. Compare that with the 28 borrows to date that have occurred with the BPL copy, and the wait list that numbers more than 400, and you’ll quickly come to realize that for controlled digital lending to work at scale, more physical copies are needed to loan against, especially for titles like this that enter the public zeitgeist and become part of a major news story.
And that’s where other libraries come in. The Internet Archive’s Open Libraries project is bringing together libraries that are committed to making their collections available via controlled digital lending and pooling their physical collections in order to make more lendable copies of digital books available to their users and the world.
The takeaway here is that controlled digital lending is a viable, but limited, way for libraries to provide digital access to the physical copies on their shelves. This case study demonstrates the ways in which controlled digital lending works, and its limitations of scale for titles with wide appeal. A significant way of addressing those limitations is for more libraries to join Open Libraries and lend digitized versions of their print collections, making more copies of books available for loan and getting more books into the hands of researchers and readers all over the world.