Author Archives: chrisfreeland

About chrisfreeland

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

Internet Archive Broadens Global Access to Theological Material

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

As the Internet Archive digitizes an increasing amount of material from seminary libraries, future church leaders are using modern technology to easily access ancient teachings.

Claremont School of Theology, Hope International University, Evangelical Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary have all recently donated portions of their library collections to the Internet Archive or are working with the Internet Archive to digitize their materials. The scanned books and periodicals will be available freely online at archive.org to anyone who wants to check them out one item at a time through Controlled Digital Lending.

The move solved logistical and storage problems for Claremont, Hope and Evangelical, all of which were relocating or downsizing. Faced with a space crunch, transforming their collections from print to digital format allowed the libraries to provide continual access – and extend their reach.

For Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS), partnering with the Archive has enabled it to get textbooks in the hands of students who are learning at a distance. With campus buildings closed during the pandemic, libraries have been clamoring for ebooks but many vendors do not sell or license to libraries, creating a barrier to learning for disadvantaged students.

Online access through the Archive has also expanded checkout privileges to alumni, which is a major issue for academic libraries.

Karl Stutzman, director of library services, AMBS

“Theological education aims to develop lifelong learners, so the need for the library doesn’t stop at graduation. A free online library is a huge resource,” says Karl Stutzman, director of library services at AMBS. “Church leaders who are reflective and compassionate have an impact on communities of faith, which in turn have an impact on their neighborhoods and nations. Increasingly, we are educating church leaders who are mobile and international. They need high quality online resources.”

Through a collaborative project with the Archive, AMBS has scanned 100 years of the Gospel Herald and The Mennonite journals. Having the materials available digitally, means users can search for articles or names without having to page through documents manually. The Archive has also digitized some older books that were out of print, bringing new life to the titles. In one instance, rights to a book went back to a faculty member author, who was pleased to make his book freely available online and used in a recent class that wouldn’t otherwise be available, says Stutzman.

Resources at the theological school have a long shelf time, but are not always available from publishers in electronic versions, says Stutzman. Scanning items the library already owns provides needed access through the CDL model. AMBS’s digital library (which continues to grow), along with the rich collections from other seminary libraries, will conveniently allow religious leaders to study and further their education, he says.

“Library resources need to be shared. The world is already so unequal.”

Jeffrey Kuan, president, Claremont School of Theology

In June, Claremont School of Theology donated 250,000 volumes from its library to the Internet Archive as its campus faced a move from Southern California. It is in the process of affiliating with Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, and President Jeffrey Kuan is guiding the school through the transition.

“It was going to be very expensive to relocate the entire library collection. It would cost us millions of dollars, plus annual maintenance,” says Kuan, who didn’t want to consider disposing of the collection.

At the same time, Claremont’s 300 students were increasingly using online resources since the school started the Digital Theological Library (DTL), a consortium with 40 institutions housing over 600,000 digital books and tens of millions of articles. After the DTL was launched, students at Claremont began accessing the digital collection five times more than the physical collection on campus.

Jeffrey Kuan, president, Claremont School of Theology

Kuan oversaw the transfer of 50,000 volumes from Claremont to Willamette and the rest were packed up for scanning by the Archive. The donated items include a wealth of books in feminist theology, Afro-Carribean spirituality, as well as the school’s Ancient Biblical Manuscripts Collection. Kuan says seeing theological education in a global context, there is great need in Asia, Africa and Latin America for library resources.

 “We saw it both from a financial perspective that it made sense and as a contribution to the distribution of knowledge to the world that it makes perfect sense,” Kuan says. “Library resources need to be shared. The world is already so unequal.”

On the other side of the country, Princeton Theological Seminary has also been a leader in making its collection available online. It partnered with the Archive in 2008 to establish a regional digitization center on the East Coast to scan materials in the public domain. It later created the Theological Commons with 150,000 digital resources on theology and religion drawn from numerous research libraries and digitized by the Archive.

Interior of Princeton Theological Seminary Library

“We’ve utilized the Internet Archive approach of making these [public domain] materials not just publicly viewable, but also downloadable,” says Greg Murray, director of digital initiatives at Princeton Seminary. “We’ve built a custom, subject-matter specific, digital library that far exceeds what we could have done with our own collection. That’s what we love about the Archive…the openness and technical infrastructure to provide materials that are relevant to our researchers.”

Like other seminaries, Princeton Seminary is a small institution—separate from Princeton University. It is a stand-alone seminary with less than 400 students and doesn’t have the resources on the scale of a divinity school associated with a large university. That made digitizing its collection and collaborating with other seminaries a draw, says Murray.

While the full impact of the open collection is hard to measure, materials are being accessed from users domestically and internationally. Now the seminary is beginning to add copyrighted items to the Archive in the CDL system, providing a wealth of resources in various disciplines, Murray says.  

“Access is the biggest benefit. And when you have a public health crisis, the benefit is even more pronounced having these materials online,” Murray says. “It’s also available to anyone around the world who can’t travel to Princeton….It seems like a natural extension of what the library has always done.”

Stutzman of AMBS says he’s excited about so much new theological content being available worldwide. “The reality is that Christianity is not just a U.S. phenomenon,” he says. “The hot spots using this material are often overseas in under-resourced areas. Having these materials available online in places that are just getting the Internet is going to be a really welcome addition.”

Library Leaders Forum: Digital Library Practices For a More Equal Society

The Library Leaders Forum is an annual opportunity for the libraries community to come together and discuss the 21st-century library. This year’s virtual Forum ended last week with an inspiring session showcasing the impact of controlled digital lending. Let’s look back over some of the key moments from the session and the conference as a whole. 

During the final session, we were honored to present Michelle Wu with our Hero Award for her foundational work on controlled digital lending. COVID-19 demonstrated more than ever the power of this key practice in helping libraries reach vulnerable communities. As the election approaches, the emphasis was also on the role of digital access in supporting democracy. “Reliable access to information is the great equalizer,” Wu said in her acceptance speech. 

The power of digital tools was demonstrated further during the session with the grand reopening of Marygrove College Library. Despite the closure of the college, the library’s valuable collection of social justice scholarship has started a new life online. The materials are now freely available on our website, showcasing the power of digitization for preserving knowledge and expanding access. If you missed the session, you can watch the recording or read a full recap

The conference was packed with insight into the impact of controlled digital lending on libraries and the communities they serve. In our policy session, experts discussed how to build a healthy information ecosystem for the 21st Century. Our community session gave a platform to librarians, educators, and technologists who are developing next-generation library tools. 

The discussions showed a library community deeply committed to digital innovation and its potential for creating a more equal society. A key theme was how COVID-19 lockdowns have made librarians more aware of the necessity of digital lending. The practice, always useful in reaching communities who cannot access physical books, has been shown a powerful tool in emergency response. Practitioners also placed emphasis on the key role of digitization in archiving knowledge for future generations. 

However, it was clear that this is no time for complacency. Librarians face threats that would damage their ability to make knowledge accessible and preserve it for cultural posterity. A new lawsuit challenges their right to digitize collections and make them available to the public. Combined with an increasing lack of shelf space and spates of library closures, this could mean that many valuable collections end up in landfill. 

The community is determined to make sure that libraries stay “open” to all. To this end, we have launched the #EmpoweringLibraries campaign, which defends the right of libraries to own and lend digital books. Although the Forum has ended, the community will stay united through campaign activities. 

We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part and helped make the Library Leaders Forum a great success. Find out how you can stay connected and protect the key role of libraries in a democratic society here.

Library Leaders Forum: how to empower communities affected by COVID-19

This year’s virtual Library Leaders Forum closes on Tuesday, following three weeks of inspiring discussion about the future of libraries in the digital age. The final session will focus on the impact of controlled digital lending on communities, particularly those affected by COVID-19. 

In last week’s session, we heard from librarians on the frontline of the COVID-19 response. Panelists shared how controlled digital lending has empowered libraries to get vital resources to those in need, despite lockdowns. “We were aware of [controlled digital lending] beforehand, but this pandemic has made us acutely aware of the need and opportunity,” said Stanford University’s chief technology strategist Tom Cramer. If you missed it, you can read a detailed recap of the session or watch the full recording

The session demonstrated the power of digital tools for reaching marginalized communities in lockdown and beyond. We were therefore pleased to announce that Internet Archive is joining Project ReShare, a group of organizations developing an open-source resource sharing platform for libraries. Resource sharing, like controlled digital lending, has the power to break down the access barriers associated with commercial platforms. 

The next session will focus on the impact that controlled digital lending is having on libraries and the communities they serve. Internet Archive founder and digital librarian Brewster Kahle will present the Internet Archive Hero Award to Michelle Wu, the visionary behind the practice. We’ll learn what inspired Michelle and how her work has empowered libraries during the current pandemic. There’s still time to register for free

We also have a very special event taking place during the session to which everyone is invited. Join us for the grand reopening of Marygrove College Library and find out how digitization saved a valuable archive from being split up and lost. The event will help place the Forum’s discussions in a real-world context by showing the impact of controlled digital lending on one African American community. It will also explore the power of digitization for preserving key elements of our cultural heritage. Registration is free for this special event.

The Library Leaders Forum may be drawing to a close, but the library community can stay connected through the #EmpoweringLibraries campaign. The campaign builds on the work of the Forum by raising awareness of the positive impact of controlled digital lending. We hope the community will unite to protect this key library practice and make knowledge accessible for all.

Internet Archive Joins Project ReShare


The Internet Archive is the newest library to join Project ReShare, a group of organizations coming together to develop an open source resource sharing platform for libraries.

“Internet Archive is pleased to partner with Project ReShare and its member libraries and consortia to build the next generation of library resource sharing tools,” says Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive. “We believe in community-developed software and support library efforts to build systems that address the ever-present challenges of connecting readers and learners with books.”

The project was formed in 2018 in response to concern about market consolidation and the pace of innovation among vendors serving libraries. Rather than rely solely on commercial providers, members wanted to be able to set their own priorities.

“We felt we needed to introduce some additional alternatives,” says Jill Morris, chair of the Project ReShare steering committee and executive director of the Pennsylvania Academic Library Consortium Inc. (PALCI). “Libraries need to be able to share ideas and resources with each other to best support their patron bases.”

As a Project ReShare member, the Internet Archive will have a voice in the project’s direction as it works directly with libraries, consortia, and other organizations to improve the value and impact of resource sharing networks and the tools used to support them.

“We are thrilled to have the Internet Archive share their expertise and contribute to the vision of ReShare,” says Morris.

The project is resulting in productive competition and a new suite of options unavailable in the past.  Creating space to devise technology and system agnostic approaches, Project ReShare enables libraries to make decisions in the best interest of good patron service rather than forced into an ecosystem with limited choice, adds Morris.  

“From my own experience working in an academic library, managing a print collection is a major undertaking,” says Chris Freeland, director of Open Libraries at the Internet Archive. “We’re excited to join Project ReShare and the community that is developing new ways of connecting library patrons to the resources they need.”

Other ReShare members include library consortia (ConnectNY, GWLA, MCLS, PALCI, TAL, and TRLN), commercial entities (Knowledge Integration and Index Data) and university libraries (Grand Valley State University, Louisiana State University, Michigan State, Millersville University, Texas A&M, University of Alabama, and University of Chicago).

Library Leaders Forum: Strengthening the Community of Practice Around Controlled Digital Lending

This year’s virtual Library Leaders Forum focuses on empowering libraries and the communities they serve through digital lending. The first session sparked important discussions around the role of libraries in providing free and equal access to knowledge in a democratic society. 

Moderator and Internet Archive policy counsel Lila Bailey summed up the urgency and relevance of the issue: “Our country is struggling to find a common set of facts. The truth often lives behind paywalls while misinformation and disinformation go viral. Equal access to information is foundational to our democratic society and it’s part of why libraries exist.” Panelists discussed how digital lending can act as a key tool in providing equal access to information, the threats it is currently facing from certain publishing practices, and potential solutions such as copyright law reform and increased arts funding. You can read a recap of the discussion or watch the full recording

In addition to the panel discussion, the session involved two exciting announcements. First, the power of digitization for democratizing access to important texts was demonstrated with the digital release to the public of a rare oration by Frederik Douglass, an influential text in the history of anti-slavery movements. Second, we were pleased to announce that Michelle Wu will receive the Internet Archive Hero Award on October 20 for her pioneering work on controlled digital lending. The practice has been key in the response of libraries to Covid-19 lockdowns, enabling them to continue providing digital access to learning throughout the pandemic for those who need it most. 

Our next session on October 13 will build on these announcements and the first session’s discussion points by exploring the community of practice that has emerged around controlled digital lending. We’ll hear from librarians, educators, and technologists who are developing next-generation library tools that incorporate and build upon the practice. We’ll also learn more about how Internet Archive’s controlled digital lending environment works in practice, with demonstrations from our engineering team. 

The session will provide useful knowledge-sharing for library practitioners who wish to expand their digital practices, and look to the future of controlled digital lending as a crucial and evolving tool in a democratic society. The focus will be on maintaining and expanding our community of practice, a key resource in developing digital tools that allow us to better serve the public. A strong community is more important now than ever as digital lending practices are increasingly under threat and the age-old role of libraries in society is challenged in a new law suit. There’s still time to register for the session for free; you can also follow us on Twitter for live updates. 

We’re looking forward to hearing more from the community of practitioners who are dedicated to developing a digital library landscape that supports and furthers democracy, equality and representation. Given the urgency of the issues discussed and the current threat to controlled digital lending, it’s important that the discussion leads to action. To this end, the Forum marks the beginning of the #EmpoweringLibraries campaign, an opportunity for us all to come together to keep knowledge accessible for everyone. We hope to see many of you at Tuesday’s session to further discuss the importance of controlled digital lending for a functioning democracy where knowledge does not live behind paywalls.

Library Leaders Forum Kicks off with Policy Discussion: Ways to Better Serve the Public

COVID-19 has made it clear that digital access to books and other library materials is more important than ever. Yet, the information ecosystem is not working as well as it should.

These issues and more were explored during the Policy session of the Library Leaders Forum, a three-week series focused on empowering libraries and the communities they serve through digital lending.  In addition to the panel discussion, special announcements were made about the donation and digitization of a rare Frederick Douglass pamphlet, and that Michelle Wu will receive the Internet Archive Hero Award at the final session of the Library Leaders Forum on October 20.

A captioned video of the entire session is now online and available for all to view.

Panel discussion

For the Policy session panel, librarians, authors, publishers, and advocates came together to discuss the role libraries should play in improving the digital landscape for the communities they serve. Potential policy solutions, such as copyright and labor law reforms, as well as collective action and boycotts to pressure publishers were discussed.

“Our country is struggling to find a common set of facts. The truth often lives behind paywalls while misinformation and disinformation go viral,” said Lila Bailey, policy counsel with the Internet Archive, moderating the discussion. “Equal access to information is foundational to our democratic society and it’s part of why libraries exist.”

Digital materials hold the promise for expanded access, but the outcome is not guaranteed. As publishers refuse to sell e-books, but rather license them, libraries are responding with a variety of strategies including Controlled Digital Lending – the digital equivalent of traditional lending. 

As libraries evolve with the changing landscape, leaders need tools to change for the better. Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, said the balance of power is up for grabs and publishers are pushing for control.

“We need librarians to be trained to push back,” Brewster said. “We are fighters for our patrons. We should stand by libraries and help empower them.”

Carmi Parker, librarian for the Whatcom County Library System in Washington state, said the average price of e-book licensing more than tripled over the past decade and libraries are forced to repurchase more frequently. When McMillan recently limited libraries to buying one e-book in the first eight weeks after publication (instead of dozens of copies of best sellers), Parker’s library consortium launched a boycott. After 1,200 other public libraries joined the protest, the publisher bowed to the pressure and dropped the practice.

“The concern here is this pattern of increasing prices and increasingly limited licenses that impede our ability to offer books to our patrons,” Parker says. “We think that we sent the message that embargoes are not OK, but we still have the crippling prices and limitations. We need to use print lending as a model for how these e-books should work. That’s why I’m interested in Controlled Digital Lending because that’s exactly what it does.”

Kyle K. Courtney, copyright advisor & program advisor at Harvard University, said CDL is a complementary model that helps libraries preserve their mission of long-term preservation and access.

“CDL has emerged as one of several answers to deal with these access issues now,” Courtney says. “CDL helps fill this digital void by harnessing the library’s special role in copyright to broaden digital access. We are craving this kind of digital access.”

Some panelists underscored it was important to embrace new forms of dissemination, but that CDL was an incomplete solution in need of refinement.

Many authors are coming around to the idea that sharing their works openly can only help them gain readers, said Dean Smith, director of Duke University Press.

“We are focused on smart and sustainable Open Access,” says Smith, who adds that OA usage has made his press more relevant. CDL is especially useful for titles that are out of print to bring scholarship that is buried back into circulation, he said. Smith suggested a possible “buy button” be added to books offered on Internet Archive as a way to entice more participation in CDL.

There should be several ways for writers to market and sell their books beyond the large publishers and online outlets, according to Cory Doctorow, a science fiction author, activist and journalist, and special advisor to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He is a supporter of the Internet Archive and believes libraries should be able to scan books for CDL.

Among Doctorow’s policy wish list to improve digital access: reform the copyright law, change labor laws for writers to form strong unions, subject mergers to strict scrutiny, force breakups of monopolistic firms in publishing, distribution and retail, increase arts funding, and create a Library of Congress rights database.

Meredith Rose, senior policy counsel for Public Knowledge, said that the pandemic might be moving public opinion on some of these issues and lead lawmakers to consider new measures. CDL could be pitched as a solution to help address distance learning, public health, misinformation, disability rights and other relevant concerns.

Looking ahead

Next week’s session of the Library Leaders Forum will focus on the community of practice that has developed around Controlled Digital Lending, and the panel discussion will bring together the librarians, technologists and educators who are working together to develop the next generation of library tools that incorporate & build upon Controlled Digital Lending. Registration is free and available now. 

Controlled Digital Lending Visionary Michelle Wu to Receive Internet Archive Hero Award

At today’s Library Leaders Forum, Internet Archive founder and digital librarian Brewster Kahle announced that Michelle Wu will receive the 2020 Internet Archive Hero Award.  The annual award recognizes those who have exhibited leadership in making information available for digital learners all over the world. Past recipients have included Phillips Academy, the Biodiversity Heritage Library, and the Grateful Dead

“Michelle Wu was ahead of her time in understanding the transition to the digital era and brought library lending into our new landscape,” said Kahle. “Not only did Michelle see a problem coming, she did something about it.”

Pamela Samuelson, the Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law and Information at the University of California, Berkeley, agrees that Wu’s scholarship and contributions to the field have been important. Said Samuelson, “Michelle’s articles explaining the concept have been very useful for students to have not just the reader’s perspective, or law student’s perspective, but how librarians are really taking the challenge of the digital age.” 

Wu will receive the award and present an overview of her work during the final Library Leaders Forum session on October 20 at 10am PDT. Registration is free for the virtual event.

MEDIA: photo and biographical sketch available via georgetown.edu.

Rare Oration by Frederick Douglass Now Available Online

On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass gave a speech in Rochester, New York, in which he called out the injustice in the Declaration of Independence for people of color. “This Fourth of July is for yours, but not for mine,” he said. “You may rejoice, I must mourn.”

Douglass’s oration was then printed and distributed, where it has become an important part of anti-slavery and abolitionist collections ever since. One of those copies made its way to Better World Books, which received a first-edition pamphlet with Douglass’s famous remarks, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” from the Library at Hartford Seminary. Instead of selling the artifact, the socially conscious online book seller elected to donate the rare print copy to the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore to be housed in the special collections of its African American Department.

Prior to gifting the historic item to Pratt, Better World Books partnered with the Internet Archive to digitize and preserve the historic pamphlet for students, readers, scholars, and all people around the world to access. The text is now freely available online to all at https://archive.org/details/orationdelivered00fred/.

The importance of digital access to library materials has been demonstrated during library and school closures due to COVID-19. Said Brewster Kahle, founder and digital librarian at the Internet Archive, “A lot of our libraries are either distant or difficult to get to, so we’re turning more and more to our screens to get the resources we have from our libraries.” Douglass’s oration is an important contribution to that online collection.

“At Better World Books, we believe in the power of knowledge,” said Dustin Holland, president and CEO of the company.  “Our library clients entrust us to maximize the value of each and every book we process.  Douglass’s famous speech deserves to be accessible and seen by everyone, so we were compelled to serve the greater good by bringing two great library institutions together to serve this purpose.”

Heidi Daniel, president and chief executive officer of Pratt, said the library welcomed the donation of the rebound pamphlet, which would be made available to patrons in person and throughout the region because of Pratt’s designation as a state library resource center.  At the entrance of the Pratt library is a quote attributed to Douglass: “Once you learn to read, you are truly free.” 

Douglass, an outspoken abolitionist who escaped slavery, was from the Maryland Eastern Shore.  “He has a strong legacy in Maryland that is well studied and well researched,” says Daniel. “This [Douglass] Oration will be right at home here in our African American Department.”

What to Expect at the Library Leaders Forum

With library service impacted at global scale due to COVID-19, libraries have had to adjust their digital lending programs to meet the needs of the communities they serve. The crisis has proven the power and importance of digital tools in responding to crisis and empowering those who would otherwise be excluded from access to knowledge and education. 

So where do we go from here? How can we harness the learnings from this extraordinary time to build the library of the 21st century? This October at the Library Leaders Forum, experts from the library, copyright, and information policy fields will come together for a three-week virtual event exploring the future of digital lending and its key role in a democratic society. Here are our three key discussion points:

Information policy in the digital age: how can we empower libraries? 

Our first session will focus on policy: how can we build a healthy information ecosystem for the 21st Century? The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that digital access to library materials is more important than ever, and that our current models are not adequate to meet this need. Digital access is particularly important for the most vulnerable people in our society, including disadvantaged communities, people with print disabilities, and those affected by emergency. Information policy, therefore, has wide-ranging implications for equality and the right to education. In this session, librarians, authors, and publishers will come together to discuss what’s broken, what’s working, and the future of information policy and practice. 

What is the role of controlled digital lending in the library of the future? 

Our second session explores the community of practice around controlled digital lending. The power of this key library practice in helping libraries and educators reach marginalized communities and respond to emergencies has been demonstrated during the COVID-19 period. There are now hundreds of libraries using the practice to reach their communities while service is disrupted. The potential of controlled digital lending for contributing to a more equal society where everyone has access to knowledge is clear; how can we expand on the current uses of this powerful tool? In this session, we’ll learn from librarians, educators, and technologists who are developing next-generation library tools that incorporate and build upon controlled digital lending.

How does controlled digital lending impact communities & librarians? 

Libraries serve communities, and our tools are successful when they have a positive impact on people’s lives. Our final session will therefore focus on first-hand experiences of the impact of controlled digital lending. We’ll hear from libraries that have implemented the practice and from library users about what it has meant for them. We look forward to hearing from those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response about how they are using digital library practices to adapt to the situation and continue to serve those who most need free access to digital materials. 

Beyond the Forum: the #EmpoweringLibraries campaign

The issues raised at the Forum are not merely theoretical, but require urgent action in the face of a new lawsuit which threatens the practice of controlled digital lending and the age-old role of libraries in society. It is crucial for the future of libraries and the rights of our most vulnerable communities that the ideas and experiences shared during the forum are heard more widely. In order to empower the community to stay connected and make their voices heard after the Forum, we will launch the #EmpoweringLibraries campaign, defending the right of libraries to own, preserve and lend digital books. The campaign will turn the ideas discussed during the Forum into action, and the community into a movement for change. 

The Library Leaders Forum will take place on 6, 13, and 20 October 2020. You can register for free here, or follow the #EmpoweringLibraries hashtag on Twitter for live updates.