Author Archives: chrisfreeland

About chrisfreeland

Chris Freeland is the Director of Open Libraries at Internet Archive.

Even More Impacts of the National Emergency Library and Controlled Digital Lending

This is the third part in a series of testimonials from patrons who used the National Emergency Library and continue to use controlled digital lending to borrow books from our library (you can read the previous posts here and here). If you’d like to share your story of how you used the NEL while it was open, or how you are still using our lending library today, please leave a testimonial.

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

Andrea N., Freehold, New Jersey, Reader: “I used the National Emergency Library for personal reading through the pandemic. I am a high-risk person for [COVID-19], so I have been very limited for the last three months.  I am also disabled and cannot easily visit the library even when it is open to check out books. I’ve relied on the Internet Archive for many years to find things to read to help me occupy my time when I can’t do much of anything else but read.  It was nice to have a wide selection of books to read during this time.”

Mirrah, Student

Mirrah, Sunderland, Massachusetts, Student: Mirrah writes that the National Emergency Library and controlled digital lending “allowed me to move ahead with my studies instead of getting stumped and trying to resort to irrelevant materials. Without Internet Archive, even my university’s library (that I’m paying tuition to access) is severely stunted in its online form.” Mirrah also encourages us to consider accessibility, writing, “I think people really underestimate the importance of accessibility in educational materials. It’s very difficult to understand the impact something you don’t have access to *could* have. Much easier to take for granted the things we already have access to, thinking it is so for everyone.”

Tom C., Omaha, Nebraska, Researcher: For Tom, the National Emergency Library was a source of entertainment. “It kept the isolation of a retiree by himself bearable, even fun sometimes. Keep on making obscure books available!”

Cindy Y., Toccoa, Georgia, Reader: Cindy used the National Emergency Library “as a replacement for Stephens County Public Library. It still has limited hours it is open.” As someone who reads for enjoyment, Cindy writes that the NEL “was a refreshing way to spend endless days at home. The entertainment was fabulous and an essential part of my life. From a young girl I enjoyed reading books like Trixie Belden mysteries to Pippi Longstocking adventures. I believe reading is essential to life. Remember the pack horse librarians and their service? Digital is ours. NEL is the pack horse librarian.” Editorial note: Learn more about the Pack Horse Library Project

Many of my students didn’t have access to some of their books when they were sent home for closure during COVID-19. I was able to find an edition of the main book needed and point students toward checking out the book. This was essential for my students who couldn’t afford to repurchase the book in a digital format.

Lauren K., Seattle, Washington, Educator

Tori K., Oxnard, California, Reader: “I read ancient history and religion books, which are not found in public libraries.” Tori is another reader that used the NEL for personal safety during quarantine and beyond. “The ability to read in the safety of my home is priceless because I have an autoimmune disease.”

Suvadip S., Researcher

Suvadip S., Durgapur, India, Researcher: Suvadip used the National Emergency Library to access materials that weren’t available to him in India. “I live in a small city in India. I couldn’t have afforded these books. Neither do we have such library facilities. It was like a boon for me in such difficult times. Please initiate NEL again during this difficult period.”

Karen T., Sacramento, California, Reader: Karen writes of the National Emergency Library, “It was a life saver. My local library, of which I am a regular patron, was closed and the selection of ebooks available online was limited. Being able to access the National Emergency Library made my stay at home more bearable.”

How Internet Archive and controlled digital lending can help course reserves this fall

Webster Library’s Course Reserves Room, Concordia University by Librarianpam under CC BY-SA 4.0

I host regular webinars about the Internet Archive’s Open Libraries program, helping librarians and others understand how controlled digital lending works, and how their library can make their print collections available to users online. The question of how to safely handle course reserves is clearly among the top priorities for academic librarians as they approach fall semester, just a few short weeks away. At nearly every webinar session since early March, and certainly every session this summer, librarians have raised the question of how controlled digital lending can work for course reserves.  

We’re getting such a large number of inquiries on this topic that I thought it would be helpful to outline how Internet Archive’s Open Libraries program and controlled digital lending can help your library with course reserves this fall, and where we may have limitations in supporting your full suite of needs.

What are course reserves?

Course reserves are books & other materials that instructors and students need for particular courses. Materials are requested to be put “on reserve” by the instructor. The library sources those materials and either provides digital access (born digital or scanned) or physical access to the items. 

  • If physical, the library holds a copy behind the circulation desk or in a special room (like the beautiful Course Reserves room in Webster Library at Concordia University, above), and students check out & read the book for a limited period of time. After that time expires, the work is returned and made available for the next student.
  • If digital, the item goes into the library’s e-reserves system and/or the course learning management system, such as Google Classroom, Blackboard, or Canvas, where it can be accessed by students enrolled in the class.

What’s the challenge with course reserves this fall?

Academic libraries have remained open and operational throughout COVID-19 closures, many working with limited-to-no onsite staff.  Their operations were already digital, but distance learning and health and safety issues related to lending physical materials have put a renewed emphasis on digital delivery for fall semester.  As libraries work to meet the needs of students and faculty returning to instruction this fall—either in person, online, or hybrid models—the demand for new ways of managing and serving course reserves is significant.

How can Internet Archive help?

  • Our lending library of 1.5M digitized books is available to your patrons right now.  Our books are available to borrow by anyone with an email address and an internet connection, with a simple signup form.
  • By default our books circulate for one hour, following the usage pattern of our own users and HathiTrust’s Emergency Temporary Access Service. When we have additional copies, books can also be checked out for 14 days.
  • If your library joins the Open Libraries program, we can process your course reserves list (either in MARC format or just a list of ISBNs) and give you back links to the books we’ve already digitized. You can incorporate those links back into your catalog, course reserves system, or learning management system.
    • To be clear, you don’t have to join the program to access our books. Anyone can link to our books right now. If you join, we’ll analyze your records for matches and give you back links. You can also opt to put one copy of your matched books into controlled digital lending so that we have an additional copy to lend, but again, that’s not required.
  • If we don’t have a book you need, you can help bump it up higher in our acquisition wish list by completing this Course Reserves request form, which will ask you to submit the book’s ISBN, title, author, year published, and anticipated # students in the course.
  • If you have a book that we don’t have, and you want to make it available to users to check out online through controlled digital lending, we can work with you to upload your book into our CDL environment. Please read our program limitations below, and reach out to learn more.


Internet Archive’s controlled digital lending service is not a perfect match for all course reserve scenarios. You should consider the following program limitations as you plan for fall semester:

  • Your patrons will have to create an account at to check out books. We don’t connect to eduroam or Shibboleth for single-sign on. (If you’re interested in helping us implement and integrate a Shibboleth connection let us know.) 
  • You can’t limit users for a particular book to students at your school or students in a particular course. We lend to anyone with an account.
  • We don’t have a calendaring and notification system for one hour loans. Our one hour borrows are first come, first served. We do have waitlists and a notification system for 14 day loans.
  • Books added to CDL or requested to be added to CDL must be published in 2015 or earlier. If you have special needs for accessible texts for more recent books, please reach out.

We understand that our implementation of CDL won’t work for every course reserves use case. We offer our collection to assist libraries and schools in connecting students with books this fall semester. We are guided by our library’s mission to provide “universal access to all knowledge,” especially as library service and educational systems are disrupted due to COVID-19. If you have additional questions about how we can help that are not addressed here, please reach out.

Digital Fluency is Key to Learning this Fall and Beyond

By Matt Poland, educational specialist

There’s little doubt that both learning and work require a high degree of technology use. As schooling continues to move online in response to COVID-19, students are expected to be able to access, process, manipulate, and interpret digital content. This has brought to light a significant skill that separates successful learners from those who struggle: digital fluency. Digital fluency is a step above “digital literacy.” Learners now need to know much more than just the basics of navigating the internet, writing an email, and making their way around common productivity applications like spreadsheets. Digital fluency includes skills such as using technology tools for collaboration, marshaling online resources to solve a problem, and evaluating the accuracy of a source.

Despite the “whiz-kid” reputation of Generation Z, an alarming number of high school students lack the appropriate level of digital fluency. This set of skills is part of a larger group of key work and learning aptitudes called 21st Century Skills. A lack of digital fluency can harm students’ futures as they progress into college and careers where these skills are necessary.

Students and teachers can use Internet Archive as a collaborative tool for sharing books and digital content across remote teams or classrooms, removing the physical barriers of access to books and collaborators.

Fortunately, having students complete assignments with the aid of the Internet Archive’s digital library can help build digital fluency. Students and teachers can use Internet Archive as a collaborative tool for sharing books and digital content across remote teams or classrooms, removing the physical barriers of access to books and collaborators. They can use digital libraries like Internet Archive to conduct research for assignments, with access to 20th-century texts that aren’t available from other sources. Finally, they can cross-reference sources to evaluate the accuracy of material they may find elsewhere on the internet.

Other features of Internet Archive’s digital library promote digital fluency for students as well. For example, the site includes advanced search and sorting features that are commonly used on research websites. It is critical for students to understand how to use the right keywords to find what they need, as well as how to find the most recent (or oldest) material, particular authors or publications, etc. On Internet Archive, this can be done from the advanced search options in the left toolbar. Sorting by the number of views, title, date published or the creator is available by clicking the appropriate header at the top of the search results. Even when you have the material you are looking for, you need to know how to find the specific content within it. You can do this at Internet Archive by using the search box in the upper right corner when a particular book is open on the screen.

Nearly a quarter of the way into the 21st century, learning is changing rapidly and digital fluency is becoming increasingly important for students. Tools such as Internet Archive’s digital library can help students develop these skills through activities like team collaboration, online research, and verifying sources. With multiple features that support learning in the classroom or remotely, teachers and students should consider Internet Archive a valuable resource for their work and learning.

Matt Poland is founder of MAP Consulting, an educational consulting firm specializing in workforce development.

Digital Librarians – Now More Essential Than Ever

By Michelle Swanson, an Oregon-based educator and educational consultant

It’s time to consider adding another occupation to the growing list of pandemic-era “essential workers”: Digital Librarian.

With public library buildings closed due to the global pandemic, teachers, students, and lovers of books everywhere have increasingly turned to online resources for access to information. But as anyone who has ever turned up 2.3 million (mostly unrelated) results from a Google search knows, skillfully navigating the Internet is not as easy as it seems. This is especially true when conducting serious research that requires finding and reviewing older books, journals and other sources that may be out of print or otherwise inaccessible.

Enter the role of digital librarian. 

The role is not really new—librarians have been going digital for years. School and university librarians are typically early adopters of technology, tasked with training the teachers they serve. In the public high school where I taught during the 1990s, the library was home to the school’s first open-access computers, printers, and computer lab. Our librarian, like countless other school librarians across the nation, was the go-to source for answers to thorny technical questions. By the year 2000, the notion of a digital librarian was already well established in library science literature as a type of information professional who manages and organizes digital resources, provides functionality for information and electronic information services, and remotely mediates between users and resources. 

Using Internet Archive, librarians who oversee physical libraries shuttered during the current pandemic can supplement their digital offerings with a massive digital library of over four million books, including many out-of-print titles from the 20th century. Anyone with an email address can borrow books from the Internet Archive for free. 

Like other digital librarians, the staff at Internet Archive recognize that curation is important for users to get the most out of the collection. For educators, the library makes it easy to find resources by offering lists categorized by subject, author, reading level, grade level, and year published. In addition, advanced search functions are available to further sort the library’s holdings, including tools that let users search the collection for specific text phrases. Schools that want to fully unlock the potential of Internet Archive’s digital books should have school librarians and classroom teachers explore strategies for incorporating this resource into their distance learning plans.

While digital libraries can’t fully replace the important social and civic role that physical library buildings play in our communities, they do provide a critical service to educators and learners in this time of global need. And guiding learners through these online learning landscapes are our essential guides: the digital librarians.

Distance Learning Trends are Here to Stay

By Theron Cosgrave, a California-based educator and educational consultant.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced massive changes upon schools across the world. UNESCO (the education division of the United Nations) recently estimated that over 1.19 billion students have been affected by the pandemic–nearly 70% of the world’s student population. With schools closed, teachers and students have had to pivot from a face-to-face model to an online distance learning approach. And while the results have been mixed, the transition has accelerated key trends that can ultimately benefit teachers and students. 

If you’re looking for a silver lining to this educational experiment, it may be this: students and teachers are learning new skills and routines that can reshape how schools operate. Here are two trends reinforced by the distance learning approach and how teachers can take advantage of the Internet Archive’s digitized books to benefit student learning.

Trend 1: Teacher as Learning Coach

Distance learning has required teachers to shift their role from “knowledge source” to “learning coach.” Teachers succeeding at engaging students are blending flipped learning strategies with real-time interpersonal connections. Books available through the Internet Archive can help teachers guide student skill development as they access online resources.

Ideas for Teachers:

  • Share Specific Books: Teachers of K-2 students can encourage the development of foundational reading skills by directing students to read books to an adult in their home. Stories like Eric Carle’s A House for Hermit Crab or Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad Together are solid picks. As students improve their reading skills, books like an illustrated children’s dictionary can support vocabulary development and word fluency. 
  • Encourage Supplemental Reading: Once students have learned to read, they can read to learn. Middle- and upper-grade teachers can encourage students to explore topics of interest. For example, teachers can guide students toward collections of books about animals and pets or a set of books that feature black girls as the main character. Older students can be coached to pursue passion projects using the library’s collections.

Trend 2: School Happens Anytime, Anywhere

Over the past two decades, the digital revolution has put history’s most powerful information machine (the internet) in the pocket of smartphone users around the globe. And while some teachers have taken advantage of web resources for years, an army of educators across the globe are now poised to take full advantage of “anytime, anywhere schooling.” 

The traditional daily school schedule has given way to asynchronous teaching and learning. Going forward, more schools–particularly at the high school level and above–are likely to renegotiate how they use time and space. This shift makes learning more accessible to students who struggle with regular attendance or face temporary interruptions (like pandemics and weather-related school closures) in their schooling. 

Ideas for Teachers:

  • Explicitly Teach New Mindsets: Teaching students to view their education in a more holistic manner is essential. Students can be challenged to see learning as something that takes place wherever they are–at school, at home, or out in the community–and at all times throughout the day. Digital libraries like the Universal School Library can be enjoyed wherever internet access is available and at all times.
  • Encourage Reading Habits by Assigning Longer Works: In a world of social media saturation, students need to build their capacity to persist in reading longer texts. The always-on nature of the Internet Archive’s book collections makes it easy for students to access books whenever and wherever using a mobile device. This increased accessibility supports the development of daily reading habits, which teachers can foster by assigning longer texts. Works of fiction targeted to student reading levels are generally good bets for books that can push students to strengthen their reading muscles. 

The pandemic is accelerating the pace of change in education. As our understanding of teaching and school continue to evolve, teachers can take advantage of these trends by using the Internet Archive’s digital libraries to help students adapt to new ways of learning.

Rafael studying

Open Library: A Tool for Student Equity during our Digital Fall Semester

By Michelle Swanson, an educator and national educational specialist from Eugene, OR

While education leaders and classroom teachers have discussed the growing issue of the Digital Divide for years, its severity has become painfully clear as classrooms have been forced online during school closures. The results of distance learning show low levels of engagement and progress for students from homes lacking internet access and devices. In addition, students facing the digital gap tend to have fewer books at home and live in communities struggling to keep libraries open. The pandemic has brought these serious equity issues to the forefront.

Closing the technology divide by ensuring that every student has a personal learning device and reliable internet access at home is a critical first step. Districts looking for guidance on 1:1 initiatives should look to ISTE’s definition of equitable technology access that makes up one of their “essential conditions” for supporting all learners.

Once students have a computer and WiFi, school leaders can look to the Internet Archive’s digital collections as one part of a multi-pronged strategy to address learner equity. Specifically, these online resources can be used to target issues of resource access, instructional rigor, and special needs access.

Resource Access Considerations

  • Book and Library Access
    By supplementing their onsite collections with online access to the Internet Archive’s Open Library, schools can extend a wealth of resources to all learners in a digital learning space that is open 24/7. Books can either be borrowed for one hour or two weeks, depending on availability.
  • Diverse Resource Access
    Open Library offers diverse reading materials to represent its readers. It includes books from the curated #1000 Black Girl Books list created by Marley Dias, a young girl determined to find books with main characters that looked like her. The collection includes books for younger readers like Karen Katz’ The Colors of Us and Chris Cleave’s Little Bee for older students.

Instructional Rigor Considerations

  • Standards-Aligned Books
    Providing rigorous instruction is an important equity strategy. To support high quality teaching and learning, the Internet Archive collections include texts suggested by the Common Core framework. For example, beginning readers can borrow books for reading aloud like Pat Mora’s Tomas and the Library Lady, while middle schoolers can explore Mildred Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and high schoolers can tackle In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez.
  • Grade-Level Appropriate Books
    The Internet Archive’s digital libraries include grade-level appropriate collections that teachers can use to ensure that all students are appropriately challenged with complex and quality texts.

Special Needs Access

  • Read Aloud and Print Disabled Books
    For students who need or prefer to listen to and visualize the plot of a story, Open Library provides a read aloud option. When viewing a borrowed book online, students can click on the audio speaker icon and choose their preferred reading speed. For those who are visually impaired and have special software, print disabled books have been formatted through DAISY. These tools can support school efforts to employ a Universal Design for Learning approach. 
  • Print Disabled Collection
    To make access to print disabled books across the collection even easier to find, the Internet Archive has curated a Books for People with Print Disabilities section. Over 1.5M books are accessible through this page and cover the wide range of topics available in the broader library from History and Science to Children’s literature. 

Working toward educational equity should be core to the mission of every school. By supporting resource access, instructional rigor, and special needs access, tools like the Internet Archive’s digital libraries can help schools move toward this essential goal.

Educator at board

Reopening Schools Safely: Planning for Our Digital Fall Semester

by Matthew Poland, educational specialist

Across the country, educators are already anticipating Fall 2020, their first new school year in the time of COVID-19. While district leaders were forced to react quickly to state shutdowns months ago, they are now working on detailed plans with multiple strategic priorities for the Fall. Schools will likely need to limit the number of students and staff in physical spaces as much as possible and ramp up classroom cleaning protocols. At the same time, districts want to improve digital literacy and ensure students have remote access to engaging instructional materials.

With its online access to digitized books, the Internet Archive’s Open Library can be a strategic solution to address these issues. Open Library is a free, digital lending library of more than 3 million digitized books that can be read in a browser or downloaded for reading offline. They are protected from redistribution using publisher industry-standard controls. Below, we outline several key reasons why districts should consider making this powerful tool part of their plan for the 2020-21 school year.

With the pandemic still expected to be an issue in the Fall, districts will need to plan for social distancing and other safety precautions for students and staff. The CDC is advising schools to “close communal use shared spaces” such as the school library and to “avoid sharing books.” Decontaminating library surfaces and materials after student use may not be feasible and is probably not the best use of library staff time. Schools will need to rely more heavily on digital solutions to provide continuity of library service. Open Library can be one part of the solution, supplementing existing school online periodical subscriptions and services such as OverDrive.

Improving Digital Fluency
Being able to navigate a digital environment to conduct research, complete assignments and eventually perform job duties is a necessity for all students. This is referred to as digital fluency and is considered a key 21st century skill needed for success in both education and work. Teaching students how to navigate digital resources such as the Open Library can help build digital fluency as they search for information, develop lists of relevant materials and add edits to library entries if needed for their studies.

Building Out the Library Collection
The reality for most school districts is that they have a limited collection due to funding and physical constraints. Adding a free resource like the Open Library can augment a school library’s collection. From Where the Sidewalk Ends for younger students to The Great Gatsby for high school students, there are popular titles for every grade.

Offering Accessible Materials
Finally, the Open Library allows school districts to offer digital material in an accessible format, as well as offering additional digital titles to print disabled students. When viewing a book online, students can click an icon in the lower right to use screen reading software and have the book read aloud. Print disabled books specially formatted in DAISY are also available for those who are visually impaired and have special software to use this format (learn more about the program). Digital books can also be downloaded to the Adobe Digital Editions application for offline access. 

School district leaders have a lot on their minds in planning to reopen in the fall. Thankfully, the Internet Archive’s Open Library can be leveraged to increase safety, digital literacy, library collections, and resource accessibility. The fall checklist just got a bit shorter.

Matthew Poland is an educational specialist who works with educators and businesses on workforce development issues.

Premier Religious School Donates Quarter of a Million Volumes to Internet Archive’s Open Library

Books from the Claremont School of Theology Library collection

Scholars will soon have online access to 250,000 research volumes from a premier theological school, thanks to a donation from the Claremont School of Theology to the Internet Archive. 

Strengths of the collection include Comparative Theology and Philosophy, Feminist Theology, and Afro-Carribean spirituality. In addition to the 250,000 volumes, the library is donating its Ancient Biblical Manuscripts Collection, the world’s largest collection of images of ancient religious (Jewish and Christian, biblical and extra-biblical) manuscripts, currently housed on microfilm. Half to three quarters of the collection contains images of manuscripts which are not currently available on the web from any provider. 

The donation stems from a 2019 decision by Claremont, an independent theological school in Southern California, to affiliate with Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. 

Claremont students began making the transition to studying in Oregon in the fall of 2019. 

The cross-state move also required relocating the institution’s Religious Studies research collection. Unfortunately, a large percentage of religious studies materials only exist in print and many tomes are out of print. 

The institution’s board worried about cutting scholars off during the move. Physical materials can be lent between research institutions via interlibrary loan, but that leaves unaffiliated researchers without access. And public health concerns during the COVID-19 crisis have given these arrangements an uncertain future.  

So the Board of Trustees authorized a donation to the Internet Archive so the 250,000 piece collection could be placed in the Internet Archive’s Open Library for controlled digital lending, and the Ancient Biblical Manuscripts Collection can be mobilized and made available online. The Internet Archive will find funding for the digitization and long-term preservation of the collections. 

Controlled digital lending allows a library to digitize a book it owns and lend out a secured digital version to one user at a time, in place of the physical item.

“Claremont School of Theology is delighted to partner with the Internet Archive in making accessible these prized collections of a research library for the general public,” said Dr. Jeffrey Kuan, President of Claremont School of Theology and Professor of Hebrew Bible. “Our alumni/ae are excited that they will soon have access again to the library that they had come to treasure as students.”

”The CST board approved this donation in large measure to increase global access to religious studies scholarship,” said Thomas E. Phillips, Dean of the Library at Claremont School of Theology when announcing the donation. “These volumes include many very important and very recent resources in the field.”

“The Internet Archive is delighted to add this important religious studies research collection to its Open Library program and make it widely available to scholars. This donation shows how a growing number of libraries are focusing on providing controlled digital lending access to their collections, to ensure legally purchased, library-owned and library-borrowed materials are available to researchers, readers and scholars regardless of where they live,” said Brewster Kahle, Digital Librarian and Founder of the Internet Archive.

More Impacts of the National Emergency Library

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

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

Betty A., Student

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

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

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

Betty A., Michigan, Student

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

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

Edwin S., Researcher

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

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

Robert N., Texas, Author

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

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

“NEL was a real lifeline!”

Dimiter, Bulgaria, Reader

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

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

Mark D., Educator

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

Impacts of the temporary National Emergency Library and controlled digital lending

Our team of librarians launched the NEL on March 24 to help those who were disconnected from their physical libraries, and the feedback our team received has been overwhelming. Almost immediately after launch, we started receiving messages from teachers, librarians, and parents who were delighted to find needed books after many schools and libraries closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, we heard from researchers and educators who found texts for their coursework and research. Feedback continues to this day, indicating that the NEL has provided a necessary service for digital learners.

As we close the NEL, we are proud of our work and how it has helped. We gathered some of the most impactful statements to show how the NEL has been used and the impact it has made while our schools and libraries are closed. We are excited that the needs of our patrons will continue to be met through traditional controlled digital lending.

What You Are Saying About the National Emergency Library

We only use testimonials for which we have explicit permission. If you would like to share how you’ve used the NEL or the impact that it has had for you, please submit a testimonial. Condensed from testimonials sent to the Internet Archive:

I was able to find basic life support manuals (BLS Provider Manual) needed by front line medical workers in the academic medical center I work at…the NEL allows me to still make necessary health informational materials available to my hospital patrons.

– Benjamin S., New Jersey, Librarian

Margaret D., Nassau, Bahamas, Educator: Margaret is an educator who uses the NEL for reading books in a classroom setting. ‘I use the NEL daily for read-alouds and reading recommendations for students during remote learning, in addition to personal reading as well. It is the best thing to happen for my classwork needs and resources. And [I] couldn’t have functioned without it. The NEL is [a] godsend.’

Benjamin S., Camden, New Jersey, Librarian: Benjamin is a librarian who uses the NEL to help his community. ‘I was able to find basic life support manuals (BLS Provider Manual) needed by front line medical workers in the academic medical center I work at. The physical collection was closed due to COVID-19 and the NEL allows me to still make necessary health informational materials available to my hospital patrons. It has also provided anatomy materials for the gross anatomy lab in the medical school. Additionally, the NEL has allowed me to augment the resources provided from paid databases to patrons in their transition to online learning.’

Kathleen M., Santa Clara, California, Professor: Kathleen is a Professor with the Department of Art and Art History at Santa Clara University. ‘The Internet Archive has been a godsend for my students at Santa Clara University this quarter—especially with all libraries and interlibrary loan services closed. My students wrote sophisticated research papers on a variety of subjects during spring quarter. The Internet Archive was a major factor in their success. They and I are so grateful that you made the decision to make all books available during COVID-19. Thank you so much!’

So grateful that the NEL is there to help our kids stay connected with their schoolwork.

– Jessica T., California, Parent

Jessica T., Albany, California, Parent: Jessica is a parent who uses the National Emergency Library to help with homeschooling her children. ‘Our local schools shutdown with little time for anyone to prepare. The 4th graders were reading an historic novel set during World War II but did not bring home physical copies. The wait list for a digital copy at our local public library was weeks long, but with a few clicks, I found it available to borrow on the National Emergency Library. I think of all those physical copies of the book gathering dust at the school and am so grateful that the NEL is there to help our kids stay connected with their schoolwork.’

Blake G., Scotland, Texas, Former College Professor, Librarian, Author, and Journalist: Blake ‘read this week about the lawsuit against you and I’m writing to express my support for Open Library.

As a former librarian, I think what Open Library offers is exactly equivalent to what libraries do. You give people access to books to borrow for a limited period of time without charging anything for them. That’s what libraries all over do and publishers don’t sue them. Open Library provides an invaluable public service that should be allowed to continue.

I find Open Library even more valuable than most libraries because you offer people like me, who live in out of the way places, access to books that we could never borrow from libraries near where we live. I am currently working on a book about blacks who migrated from the South to Boston after World War II. Like most authors, I can’t afford to buy every book I need for my research, but I live in a small town in Texas, so most of the books I need are not available at any library nearby. I have been able to read numerous books on Open Library for my project that I wouldn’t be able to access any other way.’

The NEL has been a relief and lifeline to diverse materials that are not accessible or out of financial reach for me and my family.

– Lauren M., Michigan, Librarian

Lauren M., Portage, Michigan, Librarian: Lauren is a librarian who uses the NEL for personal use. ‘During the shutdown when things are difficult to retrieve through my local library and funds are tight or insecure because of the falling economy the NEL has been a relief and lifeline to diverse materials that are not accessible or out of financial reach for me and my family. The materials available have allowed me to hold virtual book clubs with friends at a time when I desperately need the distraction and social interaction. It has also been a comfort and resource as I navigate virtual schooling with my kids and teachers who ask for them to do research papers. Additionally, I am now seeing the results of the need for accessibility at all levels of our institutional structures. Free library resources have proven time and again their importance to a healthy and productive society. This holds just as much weight in the digital realm to my family and friends.’

Carole L., Bedminster, New Jersey, Author and Former Children’s Librarian: Carole is a former children’s librarian and author who uses the NEL for her personal use. ‘I am researching women’s suffrage, in addition to alerting others to the NEL. I have been recommending the NEL to friends and others (via as a resource for teachers and students separated from school libraries and classroom sets. And I am writing my response to the New York Times article. This article and the lawsuit neglect to mention that these books are still just two-week loans, no different from what traditional libraries normally do. These scans give virtual access to the hundreds of millions of books locked behind library doors and in classrooms during the Covid-19 crisis. They are scans so much inferior to regular e-books or paper books in terms of readability, but give students, scholars, and readers access during this unprecedented lockdown. These are also not hot new books — most of the titles date prior to 2010 — and authors have the right to opt out their titles.  

As a former children’s librarian and as an author, I understand the concern of authors, illustrators, and publishers, but let’s look at the whole picture. We are in a time of (inter)national emergency when literally billions of students, scholars, and readers around the world lack access to libraries. Many families are losing loved ones or jobs and are worried about rent and food money. Most of the titles in this collection are out-of-print backlists so the author and publisher wouldn’t be getting much in the way of royalties anyway. Isn’t this a perfect opportunity to give everyone a chance to borrow the books they need and make everyone’s lives just a little bit easier? 

It could even expose kids, teens, and adults to authors they might get excited about — making them want to purchase (or ask their library to purchase) the next title an author releases! Including my Remembering the Ladies: From Patriots in Petticoats to Presidential Candidates available to borrow from the National Emergency Library, to download and print at, or to buy in print at and other online retailers. I also have created a compilation of fun family sites for at-home learning (via’ 

As an academic librarian working in an area of the country with a high rate of the coronavirus, the NEL has allowed me to continue to support the research needs of the University population while also keeping my colleagues and users safe.

– Katrina R., Detroit, Librarian

Katrina R., Detroit, Michigan, Librarian: Katrina is a librarian using the NEL for research. ‘I have used the NEL to help students and researchers access materials that they would otherwise be unable to access or request because of the coronavirus pandemic. Without this access, I believe student success will be negatively impacted as they try to complete their coursework. As an academic librarian working in an area of the country with a high rate of the coronavirus, the NEL has allowed me to continue to support the research needs of the University population while also keeping my colleagues and users safe.’

Christopher D., Baltimore, Maryland, Educator: Christopher is an educator who uses the NEL in a classroom setting for teaching, research, and the completion of his dissertation. ‘The NEL has been indispensable. With every library closed and many lending systems either unsuited or crashing due to the tidal influx of users, the NEL’s smart, easy interface has assisted and accelerated my research enormously. I also use the NEL in teaching to pull articles from otherwise unavailable or inaccessible texts.’ 

Kelly P., Detroit, Michigan, Researcher: Kelly uses the NEL for research purposes for her PhD. ‘The NEL has provided access to scholarly monographs that are unavailable during the global pandemic due to library closures. It [NEL] has provided tangible resources allowing me to continue my research work while disconnected from physical networks (office space, library access, institutional support spaces). It has shown the need for free digital resources at all times, not just during the shutdowns due to the global pandemic.’

It has been a relief to know that the NEL is there for me and for the researchers I work with.

– Annie S., Massachusetts, Librarian

Annie S., Florence, Massachusetts, Librarian: Annie is a librarian and has been able to use the NEL to find materials for a faculty member she works with. ‘Without access to library collections or exhaustive ILL services, I turned to the NEL, which was able to immediately provide the three volumes the professor needed. It has been a relief to know that the NEL is there for me and for the researchers I work with. I was not aware of the Internet Archive lending program before, but now I am grateful to have it in my back pocket.’

Mike M., Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, Researcher: Mike is a researcher who has been using the National Emergency Library for personal research purposes in fields of Geology and Art History. He called the NEL, “awesome.”

Jennifer J., Atlantic City, New Jersey, Librarian: Jennifer is a librarian who is using the National Emergency Library in a classroom setting, ‘[The NEL], provides my students with 9th grade student novels. I discovered the NEL from a librarian for the Atlantic City Public Library.’

Augusto W., Lima, Peru, Researcher: Augusto uses the National Emergency Library for personal research purposes. He marvels at ‘being able to flip through books I always wanted to take a look at or read, including many of which have been out of print for decades. This is the greatest gift of all for someone in need (or who dreamed) of a near-perfect library.’ 

We wouldn’t be able to have literature discussions without this…Thank you, thank you, thank you.

– Mary M., Washington, Educator

Mary M., Bellevue, Washington, Educator: Mary uses the National Emergency Library in a classroom setting. ‘We are continuing to discuss books together even though the children are all at home. [And] we wouldn’t be able to have literature discussions without this because every other method is either maxed out (our library system), costs money, or takes families’ data. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I can try out some books we don’t own at school and when we are back, I’ll buy them for the class.’

Imre B., Budapest, Hungary, Researcher: Imre uses the National Emergency library for research purposes. ‘I am a PhD student at the University of Hagen, Germany based in Hungary. I am interested in U.S. democracy and political philosophy. I am not sure if these books were available to borrow before but now I can read books on English and U.S. history as well as political history/ideas. Books I really wanted. The NEL is a fantastic opportunity to read new information.’

I love reading and would be lost during this difficult time if not for books. Thank you SO MUCH for this service.

– Julie N., Wisconsin, Reader

Julie N., Neenah, Wisconsin, Reader: Julie is an avid reader and uses the National Emergency Library for personal use. ‘I am reading books by British women authors, bucket list authors, and titles not available in my local library system. The NEL is tremendously important. I love reading and would be lost during this difficult time if not for books. Thank you SO MUCH for this service.’

Nico L., Paris, France, Researcher: Nico uses the National Emergency Library for research purposes. ‘Access to rare but very useful scholarly 20th century books in English is already hard to access from France, but with all libraries closed this is my only way to access them. I scratched my head a few times dreading when and how I would be able to finally find these books… then I thought to try the NEL AND VOILA. Thank you so much for your librarianship. Reasonable access for ALL. This is just a fantastic resource, surprisingly so.’