Author Archives: Jenica Jessen

I’m Done Selling Sweaters. Instead I’m Selling a Vision I Believe In.

Jenica Jessen, Email Campaign Specialist at the the Internet Archive
Jenica Jessen, Email Campaign Specialist at the the Internet Archive

Eight months ago, I was miserable.

On paper, it seemed like everything should be going right. I was working long hours at a promising startup in a rapidly growing industry. My job was to use cutting-edge digital marketing technology to optimize email content; I worked to find the most compelling language possible, to tap into the phrasing and rhetoric that would inspire people and drive them to action. I was learning the craft of perfect subject lines and clickable links, honing my skill set, polishing my resume.

And I hated it.

My emails went to tens of millions of people, but I wasn’t really communicating with any of them. My carefully-tested copy drove thousands upon thousands of purchases, but I wanted to care about something more than some corporation’s bottom line. I was working with some of the most advanced communications tools in the world—and I was using them to sell sweaters.

That wasn’t me.

Let’s go back a decade or so. The high school I attended wasn’t especially distinguished. Our football team was mediocre; our debate team didn’t win championships. The one thing that Riverton High was good at—the thing that made us unique—was Silver Rush.

Riverton High School students caroling in 2010 (courtesy of Jenica’s yearbook).

Silver Rush was our annual holiday fundraiser. (The name was a play on “gold rush;” our mascot was the silverwolf.) Every year, we would pick a charity that helped underserved members of our community: newly-arrived refugees, homeless teens, domestic violence victims. The whole month of December was dedicated to raising money for them. And at that, we excelled.

The great thing about Silver Rush was that it brought the whole school together, and everyone found ways to help out. The choir had a benefit concert. The food science class sold baked goods. The track team did a “fun” run in 20-degree weather. I shoveled snow in exchange for donations, and sang holiday songs outside the local grocery store, and gathered spare change. There were so many events and volunteer opportunities that most nights, I didn’t get home until 8 or 9 PM (and that was before homework). For me and my classmates, the whole month of December dissolved into a cocoa-fueled haze of sleep deprivation, caroling, and the camaraderie that comes from advancing a good cause.

A lot of other schools in the area tried to emulate Silver Rush. Our biggest rival, Bingham High, had a perennial goal of raising more money than we did. But the attempts to create a rivalry missed the point entirely, because the thing that made Silver Rush great was that we weren’t competing with anybody.

Our slogan was “It’s not about the dollars, it’s about the change.” Everyone took it to heart—and the first proof was that nobody knew how much we’d raised until after the fundraiser was over. We weren’t trying to show off; we weren’t trying to prove anything; we were trying to make the world a better place. My senior year we set a new record, raising over $129,000 for children who needed wheelchairs.

A Riverton High School student seeing the final amount Silver Rush raised in 2012.

But it wasn’t the numbers that made Silver Rush the highlight of my high school years. It was the feeling of making a difference.

So by the time 2019 rolled around, as I was working for that digital marketing firm, I couldn’t help but feel that I’d lost my way somehow. I was creating campaigns that earned millions of dollars at a time, but each big win felt a little empty. I couldn’t shake the sense that there was more that I could—should—be doing to give back to society. And I was so sick of writing subject lines about sweaters.

So seven months ago, I applied for a job at the Internet Archive.

What I found at the Archive was something radically different from the world of marketing startups. It was a team with a vision—not of venture capital funding and IPOs, but of a great library for all. It was work with a purpose—not synergy or hypergrowth, but preservation, education, accurate information. And it was an organization that survived not on e-commerce but on people’s goodwill—the dedication of countless volunteers, archivists, librarians, and programmers, as well as thousands of donors big and small.

December at the Internet Archive is a busy time. We launch our end-of-year fundraising drive right around Thanksgiving, and chaos ensues. Everyone is scrambling to make sure that our donation systems work and our banners are up to date, that the letters are sent and the events are organized, that the checks are counted and the newsletter goes out on time. The days are a haze of coding, camaraderie, and—yes—sleep deprivation. This month, I’ve been working long hours; I’ve been trying to craft perfect subject lines; I’ve been looking for ways to inspire people and drive them to action. And I couldn’t be happier.

Just a few of the Internet Archive team members who’ve pitched in to help with fundraising this year.

If you’ve seen an Internet Archive email in your inbox lately—a newsletter or an event announcement or a donation request—I’m the one who put it there. I’m done selling sweaters. I’m selling a vision instead.

It’s a vision of a world without disinformation, a world where verifiable facts are just a click away. It’s a vision of a great library for all, where the best that humanity has ever produced is freely available. It’s a vision of universal access to all knowledge.

So far this year, thousands of people have joined in supporting that vision, chipping in a few dollars to keep the servers running and the lights on. And it’s a privilege to read your comments, and hear your stories, and see the direct impact that your support has on the mission of the Archive.

My favorite moment, so far, came near at the beginning of our fundraising drive, when I happened to check the donations tally. The number is constantly changing, but for one brief moment, I saw it hit exactly $129,000. The same amount we raised for Silver Rush during my senior year of high school.

And for that moment, it felt like the entire world had lined up just right—like I am exactly where I am supposed to be.


If you’d like to contribute to the Internet Archive, please visit archive.org/donate. You can also show your support by getting the word out on social media or telling your friends and family about our work. We’re grateful for everyone in our community—we couldn’t do it without you.

Offline Archive Brings Knowledge Anywhere

Three women look at a phone

The Internet Archive’s central mission is establishing “Universal Access to All Knowledge,” and we want to make sure that our library of millions of books, journals, audio files, and video recordings is available to anyone. Since lack of an internet connection is a major obstacle to that goal, we created the Offline Archive project—that works to make online collections available regardless of internet availability.

For many of our readers, the internet seems omnipresent—like electricity and running water, it’s available everywhere from our homes and offices to trains and planes. But for more than half of the world’s population, that access is far from guaranteed. In many developing countries and rural areas, the infrastructure that enables internet access is unreliable, slow, or nonexistent, while natural disasters and conflicts may exacerbate the problem. Additionally, internet access can be too expensive for many people, and some governments limit internet access or censor the content for political reasons. All of these factors can combine to make internet access inconsistent, low-quality, or altogether unavailable for billions of people, which in turn leads to poor educational outcomes and intergenerational poverty. Compounding the challenge, the internet in wealthier countries is growing rapidly, and high-bandwidth videos and graphics are making it harder than ever for people on low-quality networks to participate in the modern web.

As part of a solution to this problem, we have built an offline server that transfers Internet Archive collections to a local server, caches content while browsing, and delivers the Internet Archive UI offline in the browser. The system moves content between servers by “sneakernet”—on disks, USB sticks, and SD cards. This approach should improve access for anything from a Raspberry Pi to an institutional server holding terabytes of data. Right now, we’re working to make it available in a variety of different languages, so that anybody can utilize it—not just English speakers.

An Orange Pi, a Raspberry Pi, and an Australian 20-cent coin for scale. These small devices can serve the media of the Internet Archive in remote off-line locations.

Best of all, the Offline Archive project is open source, so that people around the world can collaborate to make it better. We are currently integrating the Archive’s APIs with those of our partners, to make it easier for them to incorporate Internet Archive content. Together with our collaborators, we can bring the Internet Archive anywhere—ensuring that people everywhere can enjoy our digital library.

If you would like to lend a hand, there are lots of ways to collaborate:

  • Software developers can help us add features, platforms, and internationalization
  • Platform developers can talk to us about integrating the Internet Archive’s content or server
  • Content owners and aggregators can help make more content available, especially educational content and material in other languages.
  • Community networks and internet access practitioners can help by becoming early adopters

See archive.org/about/offline-archive for more information, or contact mitra@archive.org to collaborate or contribute to this project.

If you would like to see the Offline Archive in action and meet its builder, Mitra Ardron, then come to the Internet Archive World Night Market on October 23rd and look for the Offline Archive demo table!

Internet Archive & DPLA’s Enhanced Mueller Report Wins Best Non-Fiction Book of 2019 from Digital Book World

This week, the Internet Archive and Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) were honored for the Best Book of 2019 at the annual Digital Book World Awards for their work to create an enhanced version of the Mueller Report. The Digital Book World (DBW) Award recognizes outstanding achievement in digital publishing. The Internet Archive and DPLA were awarded Best Book in the nonfiction category for their work in creating a more accessible and contextualized version of the Mueller Report. “This is an important document for American history,” said Brewster Kahle, founder and Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive. “It deserved to be enhanced with features to make it more usable for more people—so they could not only read it but dive in and click to go further.”

After months of anticipation and speculation, the U.S. Department of Justice released the Mueller Report this spring as a PDF that was an image of the text.  “It was a dead document,” Kahle said. “You couldn’t cut and paste; you couldn’t search it. We sprang into action.”

Although the DOJ posted an updated version with searchable text four days later, the format still lacked important functionality. The report contained almost 2,400 footnotes, but only 14—barely half of one percent—included links to live web pages. In addition, the report contained a number of formatting issues which made it difficult for people with disabilities to read.

The Internet Archive and its partners immediately began working to improve the report’s format. By collaborating with members of the accessibility community, it made the report usable for readers with visual impairments; in partnership with DPLA, it ensured the report was released in EPUB format for use on ebook readers.

Most importantly, the Internet Archive got to work turning as many footnotes as possible into clickable links. A team of four researchers worked for three months, investigating every footnote, identifying and compiling the publicly available sources, uploading them into the Internet Archive, and inserting those links into the report. By the time they finished, the researchers had turned 747 footnotes—almost a third of the total—into clickable links. The Internet Archive and DPLA re-released the enhanced report in mid-July.

Thanks to the work of the Internet Archive’s researchers, there are now 747 clickable citations linked to the original sources of the report.

“We’re very happy about the award,” said Mr. Kahle. “We hope this becomes a standard of excellence for publishing books in the future.”

If you have ideas for other public documents that would benefit from similar enhancements, please write to info@archive.org. If you would like to support similar future projects, you can donate to the Archive at archive.org/donate.