Sometimes they arrive tied up in string because their binding is broken. Others are in envelopes to protect the brittle pages from further damage.
Aging books are sent from libraries to the Internet Archive for preservation. Thanks to the careful work of the nearly 70 people who scan at digitization centers in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, the books get a second life with a new audience.
Scanners sometimes call these “Last Chance Books” and they take pride in restoring them. As they turn the pages one at time to be photographed and digitized, they develop a daily cadence—but it must be adjusted with fragile materials.
“We do our best with the flaking or cracking pages,” said Andrea Mills, digitization program manager for the Internet Archive stationed in Toronto, Canada. “You have to be really cautious that the flake doesn’t fall off and cover a word. It’s almost like a puzzle.”
Some books that land at the Internet Archive digitization centers date back to the 1700s. They are fiction and nonfiction, journals and pamphlets covering a range of topics. And, it can be surprising to learn what reviving the material means to patrons.
“We chuckled when we digitized a book on sea captains. We thought – who will care? And then a year later, it had hundreds of views,” said Elizabeth MacLeod, senior manager of satellite digitization services who manages remote operations out of Wilmington, North Carolina.
Digitization helps preserve materials that are no longer in circulation at their holding library because they are falling apart. It also gives new exposure to books that are out of print that may otherwise be forgotten.
Both Mills and MacLeod began working for the Internet Archive more than 10 years ago as book scanners – also known as Scribe operators. Mills has an arts degree in jewelry design and teaching; MacLeod studied biology. They were both drawn to the mission of the Internet Archive and share a passion of connecting people with resources.
Over the years, Mills and MacLeod have worked closely with librarians and archivists around the world to digitize their collections, learning more with each project. They now manage digitization and support sites with training and best practices, many embedded in libraries, in 10 countries and upwards of 30 locations. Digitizing is a somewhat solitary task and some people “get in the zone” while scanning; others are very chatty or listen to music, Mills said.
Many employees have worked together for nearly a decade and there is a friendly, collaborative vibe at the centers. “We have all sorts of people—artists, printers and photographers. They are people who are meticulous and love books,” Mills said. A recent viral video shared on the Internet Archive’s Twitter account features Scribe operator Eliza Zhang, who has worked at the Archive for more than ten years. Book conservators from larger institutional partners also offer additional training for Internet Archive operators on best practices for handling their unique collections.
MacLeod says the scanners are all committed to providing a service to readers and it’s satisfying to help people with disabilities connect with books, “It’s energizing to be part of an organization that is thinking outside the box,” she said. “I want people to be able to have more access to whatever they are trying to find.”
Added Mills: “I’m an information junky. I love the search and the hunt and the finding the answer. The power of the internet and digitization is that you can find that answer faster. It just sort of opens up the possibilities of what you can do.”
The Internet Archive has reached a new milestone: 2 million. That’s how many modern books are now in its lending collection—available free to the public to borrow at any time, even from home.
“We are going strong,” said Chris Freeland, a librarian at the Internet Archive and director of the Open Libraries program. “We are making books available that people need access to online, and our patrons are really invested. We are doing a library’s work in the digital era.”
The lending collection is an encyclopedic mix of purchased books, ebooks, and donations from individuals, organizations, and institutions. It has been curated by Freeland and other librarians at the Internet Archive according to a prioritized wish list that has guided collection development. The collection has been purpose-built to reach a wide base of both public and academic library patrons, and to contain books that people want to read and access online—titles that are widely held by libraries, cited in Wikipedia and frequently assigned on syllabi and course reading lists.
“The Internet Archive is trying to achieve a collection reflective of great research and public libraries like the Boston Public Library,” said Brewster Kahle, digital librarian and founder of the Internet Archive, who began building the diverse library more than 20 years ago.
“Libraries from around the world have been contributing books so that we can make sure the digital generation has access to the best knowledge ever written,” Kahle said. “These wide ranging collections include books curated by educators, librarians and individuals, that they see are critical to educating an informed populace at a time of massive disinformation and misinformation.”
Everyday about 3,500 books are digitized in one of 18 digitization centers operated by the Archive worldwide. While there’s no exact way of identifying a singular 2 millionth book, the Internet Archive has chosen a representative title that helped push past the benchmark to highlight why its collection is so useful to readers and researchers online.
On December 31, The dictionary of costume by R. Turner Wilcox was scanned and added to the Archive, putting the collection over the 2 million mark. The book was first published in 1969 and reprinted throughout the 1990s, but is now no longer in print or widely held by libraries. This particular book was donated to Better World Books via a book bank just outside of London in August 2020, then made its way to the Internet Archive for preservation and digitization.
As expected from the title, the book is a dictionary of terms associated with costumes, textiles and fashion, and was compiled by an expert, Wilcox, the fashion editor of Women’s Wear Daily from 1910 to 1915. Given its authoritative content, the book made it onto the Archive’s wish list because it is frequently cited in Wikipedia, including on pages like Petticoat and Gown.
Now that the book has been digitized, Wikipedia editors can update citations to the book and include a direct link to the cited page. For example, users reading the Petticoat page can see that page 267 of the book has been used to substantiate the claim that both men & women wore a longer underskirt called a “petticote” in the fourteenth century. Clicking on that reference will take users directly to page 267 in The dictionary of costume where they can read the dictionary entry for petticoat and verify that information for themselves.
An additional reason why this work is important is that there is no commercial ebook available for The dictionary of costume. This book is one of the millions of titles that reached the end of its publishing lifecycle in the 20th century, so there is no electronic version available for purchase. That means that the only way of accessing this book online and verifying these citations in Wikipedia—doing the kind of research that students of all ages perform in our connected world—is through a scanned copy, such as the one now available at the Internet Archive.
Donations play an important role
Increasingly, the Archive is preserving many books that would otherwise be lost to history or the trash bin.
In recent years, the Internet Archive has received donations of entire library collections. Marygrove College gave more than 70,000 books and nearly 3,000 journal volumes for digitization and preservation in 2019 after the small liberal arts college in Detroit closed. The well-curated collection, known for its social justice, education and humanities holdings, is now available online at https://archive.org/details/marygrovecollege.
Just like The dictionary of costume, many of the books supplied for digitization come to the Archive from Better World Books. In its partnership over the past 10 years, the online book seller has donated millions of books to be digitized and preserved by the Archive. Better World Books acquires books from thousands of libraries, book suppliers, and through a network of book donation drop boxes (known as “book banks” in the UK), and if a title is not suitable for resale and it’s on the Archive’s wish list, the book is set aside for donation.
“We view our role as helping maximize the life cycle and value of each and every single book that a library client, book supplier or donor entrusts to us,” said Dustin Holland, president and chief executive officer of Better World Books. “We make every effort to make books available to readers and keep books in the reading cycle and out of the recycle stream. Our partnership with the Internet Archive makes all this possible.”
The Archive provides another channel for customers to find materials, Holland added.
“We view archive.org as a way of discovering and accessing books,” said Holland. “Once a book is discoverable, the more interest you are going to create in that book and the greater the chance it will end up in a reader’s hands as a new or gently used book.”
Having books freely available for borrowing online serves people with a variety of needs including those with limited access to libraries because of disabilities, transportation issues, people in rural areas, and those who live in under-resourced parts of the world.
Sean, an author in Oregon said he goes through older magazines for design ideas, especially from cultures that he wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise: “It gives me a wider understanding of my small place in the global historical context.” One parent from San Francisco said she uses the lending library to learn skills like hand drawing to draw characters and landscapes to interact deeper with her child.
The need for information is more urgent than ever.
“We are all homeschoolers now. This pandemic has driven home how important it is to have online access to quality information,” Kahle said. “It’s gratifying to hear from teachers and parents that are now given the tools to work with their children during this difficult time.”
Kahle’s vision is to have every reference in Wikipedia be linked to a book and for every student writing a high school report to have access to the best published research on their subject. He wants the next generation to become authors of the books that should be in the library and the most informed electorate possible.
Adds Kahle: “Thank you to all who have made this possible – all the funders, all the donors, the thousands who have sent books to be digitized. If we all work together, we can do another million this year.”
Every year we work to bring you informative events that highlight the Internet Archive’s programs and impacts. When COVID closures started happening this spring, we were uncertain what that meant for our slate of 2020 events. Rather than close down our events, we embraced technologies like Zoom and Gather, and started hosting larger, online events that reached more people than we generally would have through in-person gatherings. As we wind down for the year, we wanted to take a moment to look back on some of the signature events that we hosted in 2020, and set the stage for what we have in store for 2021.
Library Leaders Forum
Our Library Leaders Forum is an annual gathering of leaders from public, academic, and special libraries. In recent years we have focused our Forum conversations on Controlled Digital Lending (CDL), the library practice that empowers libraries to lend digital versions of the physical books on their shelves. This year, hundreds of libraries used CDL to reach their patrons while their facilities were closed due to COVID, demonstrating the value of the library practice. We used this year’s online Forum to invite in hundreds of participants to hear how libraries used CDL to reach their patrons, and the impacts that it had while their facilities were closed.
“Running Toward Mystery” by Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi In this new work, an ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk explores what his life lessons have to say about this tumultuous moment in history. Blog and video available
“Subprime Attention Crisis” by Tim Hwang Subprime Attention Crisis makes the case that the core advertising model driving Google, Facebook, and many of the most powerful companies on the internet is—at its heart—a multibillion dollar financial bubble. Blog and video available
When libraries and schools started closing in March, librarians and teachers turned to our Open Libraries program for help in connecting their students with digital books so that they could learn at home. To help more educators learn about our program, we ramped up our webinar schedule throughout spring and summer, at times offering multiple sessions a week to meet demands.
To close out the year on an uplifting note, we highlighted the works published in 1925 that will move into the public domain in January during our Public Domain Day 2021 celebration. The event was a rousing success, giving party-goers an opportunity to experience the literature, music, and films that will become part of the public domain in January. Read our blog post recap or watch the full livestream.
In addition to our own events, we were invited to participate in a number of conversations and webinars about our programs.
We will continue to embrace video conferencing technologies in 2021 and beyond to help more people attend our events and learn about our programs. We already have the following events scheduled in January, with more to be announced soon:
By day, he’s a D.C.-based intellectual property lawyer. By night, he’s the leader of a jazz quartet with numerous private event gigs and plum spots on the D.C. jazz club and brunch circuits. At least that was the story until COVID hit earlier this year and almost all the live sessions vanished. Since March, Bob Schwartz has been more focused on his legal career, and sessions with his band, the Bob Schwartz Quartet, have been few and far between. “It’s been hard going from 70 gigs a year to just a few outdoor events and rehearsals,” he says, adding, ”Of course it’s been far harder on those who rely on music for a living — please find and support their virtual concerts.”
This Thursday, however, the Bob Schwartz Quartet (BSQ) will be together again—albeit masked and socially distanced with open windows and space heaters—as they play a mini concert during our Public Domain Day celebration, a free, virtual event highlighting the works that will be moving into the public domain in 2021.
Starting at 2:45pm PST, a full 15 minutes before the remarks start, Bob and his bandmates will be welcoming guests to the party with a selection of tunes from the public domain—those works that have passed out of copyright and are free for creators to remix, reuse, and redistribute at will.
In addition to the mini concert at the start of the celebration, BSQ will also be debuting a medley of portions of ten of the many great songs that will enter the public domain in 2021. “I knew that David Berger and Chuck Israels, the creators of the Music Library Association’sPublic Domain Song Anthology, are nearing completion of a 1924-1925 supplement,” Bob recounts. “They sent me their progress sheets on dozens of these wonderful songs. We chose segments from ten to join together into a 6-minute medley.”
To send our guests off with toes tapping, BSQ will play another selection of public domain songs to close out our show. BSQ’s planned setlist includes:
Entrance Music Annie Laurie – Lady Alicia Scott ~1834 to fit a William Douglas (~1682 – 1748) poem. My Melancholy Baby – Ernie Burnett / George A. Norton 1911 / 1912 Look For The Silver Lining – Jerome Kern / B.G. (Buddy) DeSylva 1919
Medley (Mashup) of Songs Published in 1925 If You Knew Susie – Joseph Myer & Buddy DeSylva I’m Sitting On Top of the World – Ray Henderson / Sam M. Lewis Always – Irving Berlin Dinah – Harry Akst / Sam M. Lewis & Joseph Young Five Foot Two– Ray Henderson / Sam M. Lewis & Joseph Young Yes Sir, That’s My Baby – Walter Donaldson / Gus Kahn Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie — Billy Rose, Ballard MacDonald, Joseph Meyer Bye Bye Blues– Fred Hamm, Dave Bennett, Bert Lown, Chauncey Gray Manhattan – Rodgers & Hart Sweet Georgia Brown – Ben Bernie & Maceo Pinkard / Kenneth Casey
Exit Music Who’s Sorry Now? – Ted Snyder / Bert Kalmar & Harry Ruby 1923 All By Myself – Irving Berlin 1921 Ja-Da – Bob Carleton 1918 / Jerome Avenue – Bob Schwartz original largely on Jada chord progression. (A note from Bob: Chord progressions are PD—I actually based my tune on Sonny Rollins’ 1954 Doxy, now a jazz standard. A reason why these PD anthologies are so vital for music education.)
Tickets are still available for the Public Domain Day celebration, which is being cohosted by Creative Commons, the Center for the Study of the Public Domain, Internet Archive, SPARC, and Wikimedia Foundation. Registration for the virtual event is free and open to the public. The session will be recorded for those who cannot attend synchronously.
BSQ (Bob Schwartz Quartet) is: Bob Schwartz (Constantine Cannon LLP) tenor sax & flutes Ralph Cornwell (JHU Applied Physics Lab) vibraphone Herb Nachmann (BAE Systems, Inc., ret.) acoustic bass Alan Kirschenbaum (Hyman, Phelps & McNamara, P.C.) drums Nina Schwartz (Impulse Graphics LLC) vocals Learn more & connect with BSQ
As part of our #EmpoweringLibraries campaign, we’re asking our community what digital lending means to them. We’ve been flooded with stories of how free access to online books is empowering people and improving lives. Here are some highlights so far.
Many of you wrote to tell us about how borrowing books through our Archive has been a lifeline during COVID-19. Tudor, a reader from Romania, said, “it’s been immensely helpful during the pandemic. My local library has been closed and I’ve been able to proceed with a translation project because I was able to find the books I needed on Internet Archive.”
Alejandra, an educator from New Mexico, highlighted the importance of digital lending for the libraries community during the pandemic: “I usually train librarians and during the lockdown, this activity has increased. As we are unable to visit the libraries, I promote the use of the Internet Archive lending library to meet the information needs.”
For people with disabilities or long-term health conditions, it can be difficult to access a local library even outside of a pandemic. Shari, a reader in Indiana, shared how controlled digital lending empowered her in difficult circumstances.
“When my physical disabilities became overwhelming… I finally had to stop working, and became primarily home bound. I could not travel far, or often, and the limited resources available didn’t make it worth my trouble. But, getting on the Internet at home, and traveling there to any destination I wished through the Internet Archive has provided me with information and images, including photographs, drawings, descriptions, floor plans, and historical information made my days just fly by. It has literally saved my sanity, as I went through a significant period of depression for at least a year.”
Many of you also shared how the Archive helps you gain a global perspective and access texts from diverse cultures. Sean, an author from Oregon, uses the Archive to find design ideas in old magazines, particularly from cultures he believes he wouldn’t otherwise have been exposed to. The Archive has given him “a wider understanding of graphic history, and my small place in the global historical context.” Several users also report using the Archive to learn more about their own cultural heritage. Teresa, a reader in Philadelphia, reported that the Archive “has been great helping me to trace and understand my African American ancestry.”
Your stories show the power of controlled digital lending to unite global communities and connect us to our cultural heritage. They also highlight its necessity for people who struggle to access physical books, as well as those affected by emergency.
However, a current lawsuit threatens the future of this empowering practice. The impact on the lives of people who rely on digital borrowing would be severe. Our #EmpoweringLibraries campaign aims to defend controlled digital lending and the people who need it most.
You can support the campaign by sharing your story with us. How does being able to borrow digital books improve your everyday life? Let us know via this Google Form, or on Twitter using this template: As a [your role, eg. student, parent], I use @internetarchive to [eg. research papers/homeschool my kids]. Protect free access to digital books by joining the #EmpoweringLibraries campaignhttp://blog.archive.org/empoweringlibraries/
The public domain is an invaluable component of our culture, allowing for the remixing, reinterpretation, and redistribution of designated works without restriction. On December 17th, we’ll be celebrating the works published in 1925 that will be moving into the public domain when the clock strikes midnight on January 1, 2021. Our virtual celebration is free and open to the public.
As part of our celebration, we’re bringing together leaders in the open world, intellectual property, and social justice to discuss the value of the public domain for creative expression and open scholarship, and provide perspectives on the marginalized communities that have been left out of the copyright system in the United States.
ABOUT OUR SPEAKERS
KEVIN J. GREENE, SOUTHWESTERN LAW A graduate of the Yale Law School and a veteran of the United States Marines, Professor Kevin J. Greene is the John J. Schumacher Chair Professor at Southwestern Law in Los Angeles, California. Professor Greene’s scholarship in the areas of copyright, trademark and publicity rights has garnered national and international recognition in the intellectual property (“IP”) arena, particularly his pioneering work on African-American music and copyright law.
JENNIFER JENKINS, CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN Jennifer Jenkins is a Clinical Professor of Law at Duke Law School and Director of Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain, where she writes its annual Public Domain Day website. She is the co-author (with James Boyle) of two comic books — Theft! A History of Music, a 2000-year history of musical borrowing and regulation, and Bound By Law?, a comic book about copyright, fair use and documentary film — as well as the open coursebook Intellectual Property: Cases and Materials (4th ed, 2018). Her articles include In Ambiguous Battle: The Promise (and Pathos) of Public Domain Day and Last Sale? Libraries’ Rights in the Digital Age. She is currently writing a book on “Music Copyright, Creativity, and Culture” (forthcoming from Oxford University Press).
HEATHER JOSEPH, SPARC Since her appointment as SPARC’s Executive Director in 2005, Heather has focused the organization’s efforts on supporting the open and equitable sharing of digital articles, data, and educational resources. Under her stewardship, SPARC has become widely recognized as the leading international force for effective open access policies and practices. Among her many achievements, she convened the Alliance for Taxpayer Access and the Open Access Working Group, which provided critical advocacy for the establishment of the landmark 2008 NIH Public Access Policy and the 2013 White House Memorandum on Public Access to Federally Funded Research.
BREWSTER KAHLE, INTERNET ARCHIVE A passionate advocate for public Internet access and a successful entrepreneur, Brewster Kahle has spent his career intent on a singular focus: providing Universal Access to All Knowledge. He is the founder and Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive, one of the largest libraries in the world. In 1989, Kahle created the Internet’s first publishing system called Wide Area Information Server (WAIS), later selling the company to AOL. In 1996, Kahle co-founded Alexa Internet, which helps catalog the Web, selling it to Amazon.com in 1999. The Internet Archive, which he founded in 1996, now preserves petabytes of data – the books, Web pages, music, television, and software that form our cultural heritage.
KATHERINE MAHER, WIKIMEDIA FOUNDATION Katherine Maher is the CEO of the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization that operates Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects. She is a longtime advocate for free and open societies, and has lived and worked around the world leading the introduction of technology and innovation in human rights, good governance, and international development. Katherine has worked with UNICEF, the National Democratic Institute, the World Bank, and Access Now on programs supporting technologies for democratic participation, civic engagement, and open government. She is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Council on Human Rights and the Council on Foreign Relations, and a fellow at the Truman National Security Project. She is on the Board of the American University of Beirut, and the Digital Public Library of America.
LATEEF MTIMA, INSTITUTE FOR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY & SOCIAL JUSTICE Lateef Mtima is the Founder and Director of IIPSJ; he is also a Professor of Law at the Howard University School of Law where he regularly teaches courses in intellectual property law and commercial law. Professor Mtima is a graduate of Amherst College and Harvard Law School. He has published numerous articles on copyright, publicity rights, and diversity in the legal profession, and is the editor of Intellectual Property, Social Justice, and Entrepreneurship: From Swords to Ploughshares (Edward Elgar 2015), and a co-author of Transnational Intellectual Property Law (West Academic Publishing 2015).
CATHERINE STIHLER OBE, CREATIVE COMMONS Catherine Stihler OBE is the CEO of Creative Commons. She has been an international champion for openness as a legislator and practitioner for over 20 years. After graduating from St Andrews University, she worked in the British House of Commons as a researcher before successfully standing for election as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for Scotland in 1999, representing the UK Labour Party. In 2019, Catherine was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty the Queen in recognition of her services to politics. Catherine joined Creative Commons in 2020.
What do the song “Sweet Georgia Brown,” The Great Gatsby and Rudolph Valentino in “The Eagle” all share in common? They were all first released in 1925. And looking ahead, that means that when the sun rises on 2021, thousands of works of literature, film, music and art will enter the public domain. We think having free access to these cultural riches is something to celebrate!
Please join us December 17th for a virtual celebration of the public domain. Presented by Internet Archive, Center for the Study of the Public Domain, Creative Commons, and SPARC, this event will bring together a diverse group of organizations, musicians, artists, activists, and thinkers to highlight the new works entering the public domain in 2021 and discuss those elements of knowledge and creativity that are too important to a healthy society to lock down with copyright law.
Our virtual celebration will be on December 17, 2020, at 3pm PT. Registration is free and open to the public.
The public domain is our shared cultural heritage, a near limitless trove of creativity that’s been reused, remixed, and reimagined over centuries to create new works of art and science. The public domain forms the building blocks of culture because these works are not restricted by copyright law. Generally, works come into the public domain when their copyright term expires. This year, works first published in 1925 are entering the public domain for all to share.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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 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.
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.