In 1847, Frederick Douglass started a newspaper advocating the abolition of slavery that ran until 1851. After the Civil War, there was a newspaper for freed slaves, the Freedmen’s Record. The Internet Archive is bringing these and many more works online for free public access. But there’s a problem:
Our Optical Character Recognition (OCR), while the best commercially available OCR technology, is not very good at identifying text from older documents.
Take for example, this newspaper from 1847. The images are not that great, but a person can read them:
The problem is our computers’ optical character recognition tech gets it wrong, and the columns get confused.
What we need is “Culture Tech” (a riff on fintech, or biotech) and Culture Techies to work on important and useful projects–the things we need, but are probably not going to get gushers of private equity interest to fund. There are thousands of professionals taking on similar challenges in the field of digital humanities and we want to complement their work with industrial-scale tech that we can apply to cultural heritage materials.
One such project would be to work on technologies to bring 19th-century documents fully digital. We need to improve OCR to enable full text search, but we also need help segmenting documents into columns and articles. The Internet Archive has lots of test materials and thousands are uploading more documents all the time.
What we do not have is a good way to integrate work on these projects with the Internet Archive’s processing flow. So we need help and ideas there as well.
Maybe we can host an “Archive Summer of CultureTech” or something…Just ideas. Maybe working with a university department that would want to build programs and classes around Culture Tech… If you have ideas or skills to contribute, please post a comment here or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with some of this information.
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.
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 archive.org 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 archive.org 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.
Yesterday, the Internet Archive filed our response to the lawsuit brought by four commercial publishers to end the practice of Controlled Digital Lending (CDL), the digital equivalent of traditional library lending. CDL is a respectful and secure way to bring the breadth of our library collections to digital learners. Commercial ebooks, while useful, only cover a small fraction of the books in our libraries. As we launch into a fall semester that is largely remote, we must offer our students the best information to learn from—collections that were purchased over centuries and are now being digitized. What is at stake with this lawsuit? Every digital learner’s access to library books. That is why the Internet Archive is standing up to defend the rights of hundreds of libraries that are using Controlled Digital Lending.
The publishers’ lawsuit aims to stop the longstanding and widespread library practice of Controlled Digital Lending, and stop the hundreds of libraries using this system from providing their patrons with digital books. Through CDL, libraries lend a digitized version of the physical books they have acquired as long as the physical copy doesn’t circulate and the digital files are protected from redistribution. This is how Internet Archive’s lending library works, and has for more than nine years. Publishers are seeking to shut this library down, claiming copyright law does not allow it. Our response is simple: Copyright law does not stand in the way of libraries’ rights to own books, to digitize their books, and to lend those books to patrons in a controlled way.
“The Authors Alliance has several thousand members around the world and we have endorsed the Controlled Digital Lending as a fair use,” stated Pamela Samuelson, Authors Alliance founder and Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law at Berkeley Law. “It’s really tragic that at this time of pandemic that the publishers would try to basically cut off even access to a digital public library like the Internet Archive…I think that the idea that lending a book is illegal is just wrong.”
These publishers clearly intend this lawsuit to have a chilling effect on Controlled Digital Lending at a moment in time when it can benefit digital learners the most. For students and educators, the 2020 fall semester will be unlike any other in recent history. From K-12 schools to universities, many institutions have already announced they will keep campuses closed or severely limit access to communal spaces and materials such as books because of public health concerns. The conversation we must be having is: how will those students, instructors and researchers access information — from textbooks to primary sources? Unfortunately, four of the world’s largest book publishers seem intent on undermining both libraries’ missions and our attempts to keep educational systems operational during a global health crisis.
The publishers’ lawsuit does not stop at seeking to end the practice of Controlled Digital Lending. These publishers call for the destruction of the 1.5 million digital books that Internet Archive makes available to our patrons. This form of digital book burning is unprecedented and unfairly disadvantages people with print disabilities. For the blind, ebooks are a lifeline, yet less than one in ten exists in accessible formats. Since 2010, Internet Archive has made our lending library available to the blind and print disabled community, in addition to sighted users. If the publishers are successful with their lawsuit, more than a million of those books would be deleted from the Internet’s digital shelves forever.
I call on the executives at Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House to come together with us to help solve the pressing challenges to access to knowledge during this pandemic. Please drop this needless lawsuit.
We are excited to announce a significant expansion of our partnership. With a generous award of $800,000 (USD) to the University of Waterloo from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Archives Unleashed and Archive-It will broaden our collaboration and further integrate our services to provide easy-to-use, scalable tools to scholars, researchers, librarians, and archivists studying and stewarding web archives. Further integration of Archives Unleashed and Archive-It’s Research Services (and IA’s Web & Data Services more broadly) will simplify the ability of scholars to analyze archived web data and give digital archivists and librarians expanded tools for making their collections available as data, as pre-packaged datasets, and as archives that can be analyzed computationally. It will also offer researchers a best-of-class, end-to-end service for collecting, preserving, and analyzing web-published materials.
The Archives Unleashed team brings together a team of co-investigators. Professor Ian Milligan, from the University of Waterloo’s Department of History, Jimmy Lin, Professor and Cheriton Chair at Waterloo’s Cheriton School of Computer Science, and Nick Ruest, Digital Assets Librarian in the Digital Scholarship Infrastructure department of York University Libraries, along with Jefferson Bailey, Director of Web Archiving & Data Services at the Internet Archive, will all serve as co-Principal Investigators on the “Integrating Archives Unleashed Cloud with Archive-It” project. This project represents a follow-on to the Archives Unleashed project that began in 2017, also funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
“Our first stage of the Archives Unleashed Project,” explains Professor Milligan, “built a stand-alone service that turns web archive data into a format that scholars could easily use. We developed several tools, methods and cloud-based platforms that allow researchers to download a large web archive from which they can analyze all sorts of information, from text and network data to statistical information. The next logical step is to integrate our service with the Internet Archive, which will allow a scholar to run the full cycle of collecting and analyzing web archival content through one portal.”
“Researchers, from both the sciences and the humanities, are finally starting to realize the massive trove of archived web materials that can support a wide variety of computational research,” said Bailey. “We are excited to scale up our collaboration with Archives Unleashed to make the petabytes of web and data archives collected by Archive-It partners and other web archiving institutions around the world more useful for scholarly analysis.”
The project begins in July 2020 and will begin releasing public datasets as part of the integration later in the year. Upcoming and future work includes technical integration of Archives Unleashed and Archive-It, creation and release of new open-source tools, datasets, and code notebooks, and a series of in-person “datathons” supporting a cohort of scholars using archived web data and collections in their data-driven research and analysis. We are grateful to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their support of this integration and collaboration in support of critical infrastructure supporting computational scholarship and its use of the archived web.
Primary contacts: IA – Jefferson Bailey, Director of Web Archiving & Data Services, jefferson [at] archive.org AU – Ian Milligan, Professor of History, University of Waterloo, i2milligan [at] uwaterloo.ca
On July 22, 2020, Pamela Samuelson, Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law and Information at the University of California, Berkeley, spoke at a press conference about the copyright lawsuit against the Internet Archive brought by the publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House.These are her remarks:
Good afternoon. Very happy to be here with you today. The Authors Alliance has several thousand members around the world and we have endorsed the controlled digital lending as a fair use and I think that this is a lawsuit I hoped would never happen. Because controlled digital lending has been going on for such a long time, it’s really tragic that at this time of pandemic that the publishers would try to basically cut off even access to a digital public library like the Internet Archive is running.
I don’t know about your library, but my libraries in California are closed. I can’t get any books out of even the University of California Berkeley Library at this point, the whole campus is closed, and so while I haven’t been using the Open Library for my research purposes because they don’t have the books in it that I need, I do think that that it’s just a heartless, tragic thing that this lawsuit is really trying to stop a very positive thing that Internet Archive has been doing.
I’m one of the legal scholars who has endorsed the controlled digital lending statement. I think that even under some second circuit opinions, one can say that the Open Library has actually a utility-enhancing transformative use. It’s certainly nonprofit, it’s educational, and it promotes literacy and many, many positive things. I think that the idea that lending a book is illegal is just wrong.
I would actually like to point out that in Germany, where copyright laws are generally stronger than in the United States, that the Darmstadt Technical University was able to succeed in its non-infringement claim for digitizing a book, and here’s the important point: just because the publisher wanted to license an ebook to that library, the Court of Justice of the European Union said it’s not an infringement for the library to actually digitize one of its own books and make that book available to the public. So if that’s true in Germany, I think it should be true in the US as well.
About the speaker:
Pamela Samuelson is the Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law and Information at the University of California, Berkeley. She is recognized as a pioneer in digital copyright law, intellectual property, cyberlaw and information policy. Since 1996, she has held a joint appointment at Berkeley Law School and UC Berkeley’s School of Information. Samuelson is a director of the internationally-renowned Berkeley Center for Law & Technology. She is co-founder and chair of the board of Authors Alliance, a nonprofit organization that promotes the public interest in access to knowledge. She also serves on the board of directors of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as on the advisory boards for the Electronic Privacy Information Center , the Center for Democracy & Technology, Public Knowledge, and the Berkeley Center for New Media.
I wanted to share my thoughts in response to the lawsuit against the Internet Archive filed on June 1 by the publishers Hachette, Harpercollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House.
I founded the Internet Archive, a non-profit library, 24 years ago as we brought the world digital. As a library we collect and preserve books, music, video and webpages to make a great Internet library.
We have had the honor to partner with over 1,000 different libraries, such as the Library of Congress and the Boston Public Library, to accomplish this by scanning books and collecting webpages and more. In short, the Internet Archive does what libraries have always done: we buy, collect, preserve, and share our common culture.
But remember March of this year—we went home on a Friday and were told our schools were not reopening on Monday. We got cries for help from teachers and librarians who needed to teach without physical access to the books they had purchased.
Over 130 libraries endorsed lending books from our collections, and we used Controlled Digital Lending technology to do it in a controlled, respectful way. We lent books that we own—at the Internet Archive and also the other endorsing libraries. These books were purchased and we knew they were not circulating physically. They were all locked up. In total, 650 million books were locked up just in public libraries alone. Because of that, we felt we could, and should, and needed to make the digitized versions of those books available to students in a controlled way to help during a global emergency. As the emergency receded, we knew libraries could return to loaning physical books and the books would be withdrawn from digital circulation. It was a lending system that we could scale up immediately and then shut back down again by June 30th.
And then, on June 1st, we were sued by four publishers and they demanded we stop lending digitized books in general and then they also demanded we permanently destroy millions of digital books. Even though the temporary National Emergency Library was closed before June 30th, the planned end date, and we are back to traditional controlled digital lending, the publishers have not backed down.
Schools and libraries are now preparing for a “Digital Fall Semester” for students all over the world, and the publishers are still suing.
Please remember that what libraries do is Buy, Preserve, and Lend books.
Controlled Digital Lending is a respectful and balanced way to bring our print collections to digital learners. A physical book, once digital, is available to only one reader at a time. Going on for nine years and now practiced by hundreds of libraries, Controlled Digital Lending is a longstanding, widespread library practice.
What is at stake with this suit may sound insignificant—that it is just Controlled Digital Lending—but please remember– this is fundamental to what libraries do: buy, preserve, and lend.
With this suit, the publishers are saying that in the digital world, we cannot buy books anymore, we can only license and on their terms; we can only preserve in ways for which they have granted explicit permission, and for only as long as they grant permission; and we cannot lend what we have paid for because we do not own it. This is not a rule of law, this is the rule by license. This does not make sense.
We say that libraries have the right to buy books, preserve them, and lend them even in the digital world. This is particularly important with the books that we own physically, because learners now need them digitally.
This lawsuit is already having a chilling impact on the Digital Fall Semester we’re about to embark on. The stakes are high for so many students who will be forced to learn at home via the Internet or not learn at all.
Librarians, publishers, authors—all of us—should be working together during this pandemic to help teachers, parents and especially the students.
I call on the executives at Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House to come together with us to help solve the pressing challenges to access to knowledge during this pandemic.
Juneteenth celebrates when enslaved people actually became free in 1865. The date, June 19th, commemorates General Gordon Granger of the Union Army announcing the executive order in Galveston, Texas, freeing all enslaved people in Texas.
Community access TV stations around the country have shown local celebrations of Juneteenth for years, and we thought this 2013 talk by Dr. Shennette Garrett-Scott at the Allen Public Library in Texas (via Allen City TV) was particularly helpful in understanding the history of this important day.
With the Internet Archive being mentioned prominently in the news for the past couple of weeks, we’ve had thousands of people discuss us in social media, and contact us directly with strong concerns and worries.
Above all, many want, in some way, to “help” and have asked us what they can do, if anything.
While your donations during this time have been appreciated, there’s actually many things you can do beyond that, which will have a lasting effect.
It may sound simple, but just using the Internet Archive for why it exists in the first place is a fulfillment of the dream of the many who have worked on it, past and present. An extraordinary amount of hours of continuing support are behind the simple archive.org address and website. Some of you are already enjoying the archive in its full potential, but many use it just for the Wayback Machine, or for a favorite set of media that you listen to or watch.
Take a walk through our stacks, browse, meander… enter a search term of something that interests you and see what pops up and what collections it’s part of. You’ll find it endlessly rewarding. Tens of millions of items await you.
The collections themselves vary wildly; a driven group will create a collection, or collaborations and partnerships worldwide will lead to a breathtaking amount of material you can enjoy. And, as always, billions of URLs have been mirrored to bring the unique miracle of the Wayback Machine to you for 20 years. We back up every link Wikipedia links out to at the time’s added, to make sure the web doesn’t forget its citations and relevant information anytime soon.
Speaking of the Wayback Machine… the Wayback is our crowning jewel, and we also encourage people who see something to save a copy of it.
To do so, visit the main Wayback page and enter a URL in the Save Page Now form on the lower right. We’ll do the rest (de-duplication, archiving, and so on). It’s how we become aware of to-the-minute URLs that either don’t have a long shelf life or which we would not normally be aware of for a significant amount of time.
Become a Patron
If you haven’t registered with us, it’s incredibly easy to do so and absolutely free, and always will be. Having a virtual library card lets you build lists of favorites, write reviews for any items you have opinions on, and allow you to upload your own items into our collections. During signup, you can also register for our newsletter, which is really great for keeping track of news and events related to the Archive.
You can always browse anonymously, from anywhere, of course; that’s what a library is about. But consider being a member of the archive as well.
Curate and Upload to the Archive
As a member of the Archive, you can upload items into our stacks instantly. Texts, Images, Movies, Audio. Thousands of new items enter into the collection every day. Our Upload Page has helpful information about what you’re uploading to allow you to describe and verify the items you wish for us to store.
It’s always a surprise to us to find out that people don’t know about the Wayback Machine or the Internet Archive, but we live here. Buried among hundreds of tweets have been the excited responses of people discovering us for the first time. What a shame if your friends and family don’t know about us and all they need is for you to tell them we’re a few clicks away. Take a little time to spread the word we’re here and waiting for them. (Just link them to https://archive.org or https://web.archive.org – the site is pretty self explanatory).
And really, nothing makes us happier than others writing about what they discover in expeditions into the stacks; essays and posts have been written about discovered unusual magazines or articles, and citing 18th and 19th century predecessors of technology and schools of thought that are flourishing in the present. Our system allows you to bookmark printed items down to the individual page or music track and link to them.
Browse Our Many, Many Collections.
Our petabytes of data have a lifetime’s worth of things to see; here’s a few highlights of our tens of thousands of collections.
For decades, a group of tapers and fans have created the Live Music Archive, a collection of over 225,000 live performances of music, including the vast majority of all live performances of The Grateful Dead, as well as thousands of other bands.
The Bay Area Reporter, the oldest continuously published lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer weekly newspaper in the United States, made it a mission to scan and upload their entire back catalog of issues from their first to the present day. About 50 years of issues are represented, and are a fascinating deep dive. Other examples of broadsheets and bulletin history that have come to be hosted include the Sparrows’ Nest Library of radical zines and newspapers, as well as the cultural-remix and art potential of thousands of supermarket circulars.
The Netlabels area contains music and performances from “Netlabels”, online-only music groups, “record companies” and communities that have uploaded fully-produced albums with open licenses for years. For example, the Curses from Past Times LP is at 800,000 views and counting. (Be sure to click on the Llama on the right, too.)
Speaking of which.. we’ve partnered with many other libraries, archives, and collectors to mirror or host millions of individual items. Our space and bandwidth are at their service to ensure the maximum audience is ready to interact with them, as needed.
Public Resource hosts 18,000+ Safety and Law Codes with us, allowing individuals to view the laws that affect their lives and functions within society without paying expensive rates to do so. An attempt to prevent this service by the State of Georgia ended up in a legal battle that made its way to the Surpreme Court, which found in favor of Public Resource, allowing you to view these laws immediately. Over 22 million views of these laws have happened over the years.
The Media History Digital Library has a collection in our stacks of film theory, cinema periodicals, and related documents and writings, which can be viewed from the Media History Project site. These scans of industry trade magazines, announcements and advertising related to the film and television industries are instantly available and accessible by students, researchers and writers, as are all our collections.
And we don’t just host music and texts. Among our most storied and referenced items are the uploads of the Prelinger Library, which include government public health films, commercials, instructional movies, and a growing set of home movies, which allow us to parts of visual history that didn’t have a commercial aspect. This work is done, among other ways, by a large-scale digitizing process hosted in the Archive’s Physical Archive.
In our software collections, we have brought back thousands of hypercard stacks that used to be easily available for Macintosh computers in the 1980s and 1990s – they will boot in your browser and let you enjoy them near-instantly.
Just go in any direction in the Archive and you will spend weekends, days and nights finding and sharing what you discover.
However… if passively consuming media doesn’t feel like it’s “helping” us (although it is), there’s an even more active set of roles you can take:
Get Involved In Our Many Projects, Including The Wayback Machine
We’ve made an effort to work with many volunteers and collaborators over the years to ensure the Wayback Machine is capable of playing back as much of the now-lost and forgotten World Wide Web as possible. As you can imagine, the web is a moving target, and the terabytes a day of shifting websites presents one of the hardest technical challenges out there.
We have also moved into the real world where we can (even if we, like many others, are taking a break right now). We have co-hosted events like DWebCamp, provided space for book readings, and engaged in a variety of Artist-in-Residency programs; we expect to do more in the future and would love for you to be involved.
You can write us if you have an interest in participating in any of these many and ongoing efforts.
But Most of All, Please Help Yourself First.
We’re touched by everyone who has spoken of their love and support of the Archive and its many missions, but this is also a time of much general uncertainty: economic, health concerns, and upheaval in society.
The Internet Archive is our job and mission. Your job and mission is to take care of yourself and those closest to you. Without you, we’re a bunch of hard drives on the Internet.
Long before the Covid-19 pandemic, before the righteous uprisings for racial justice swept across the world, the Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi decided to open his new memoir with this quotation:
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
As a six year old, the young Tenzin began having visions of an unknown place and the face of a man draped in saffron robes. At ten, he left his boarding school in India to set off—Huck Finn-like—in search of an answer to those waking dreams. As the scion of a prominent Brahmin family, Venerable Tenzin could have remained “well adjusted” to the role Indian society had created for him. Instead he leaned in toward the unknown. He followed his instincts, which led him to a small Japanese Buddhist Temple near Vulture’s Peak, Buddha’s favorite retreat in Rajgir, India.
Thus begins the new memoir, “Running Toward Mystery: The Adventure of an Unconventional Life,” by the Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi. On June 5, 2020, the Internet Archive invited this ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk to explore what his life lessons have to say about this tumultuous moment in history. The Venerable Tenzin selected June 5th because it is Saka Dawa, the day celebrating Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing—said to be especially auspicious for acts of kindness and compassion.
The event began with a moment of reflective silence, “in solidarity with all that is happening around us and affects us deeply,” Venerable Tenzin proclaimed. “Reflective silence hopefully generating a sense of compassion.” He was joined in conversation by former diplomat and human rights policy leader, Eileen Donahoe. “The hope is we can explore how inner spiritual transformation plays a role in the world,” she laid out. “And it’s potential to bring about understanding of our common nature and common destiny.”
“Lack of empathy is a public health issue.”
–Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi
An encounter with Mother Theresa challenged the Venerable Tenzin’s sense of certainty about his true path, teaching him to reevaluate constantly learning and unlearning. “One of the things we are recognizing today in a world full of false certainties and biases is that there is a lot of unlearning to be done,” he said. “Unlearning is important as a process before we can learn anything new.”
For the one hundred audience members, the question weighing most heavily on their hearts and minds centered on justice and social change. The author challenged the notion that banking, legal circles or law enforcement could “magically” change without deep unlearning and learning within those ranks. “I, as a Buddhist, am a big proponent of training,” the Venerable Tenzin explained. “Empathy training is as important as financial training. Compassion training is as important as learning about science, math and literature. Criticism of systems is not enough. We must respond with training mechanisms. Lack of empathy is a public health issue, and we must treat it as such.”
In this moment when millions are in the streets demanding change, this Buddhist monk acknowledged the profound tension between action and contemplation. “Introspection must be a precursor to action,” he proclaimed. “Deeper changes will actually come from this sense of awakening. When we truly recognize that there is no I without you. That there is no I without the other. That our sense of happiness is deeply intertwined, is deeply interconnected. As long as we ignore that lesson of life, everything else is window dressing.”
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:
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!’
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.’
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 tinyurl.com/familylearningideas) 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 tellingherstories.com, or to buy in print at Amazon.com and other online retailers. I also have created a compilation of fun family sites for at-home learning (via https://tinyurl.com/familylearningideas).’
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.’
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.’
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.’
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.’