Category Archives: Announcements

Observations From An Author & Librarian

Barbara Fister has authored four novels, many works of non-fiction and countless articles in her 30+ year career.

She’s an author of crime fiction. A college librarian. A recently retired faculty member at a small liberal arts college in Minnesota. For more than 30 years, Barbara Fister has felt the opposing pull from her publishers and the call of open access; from the need for books to make money and the desire for her published work to live on into the next century. Plus, this author and librarian has authored five books now available in the National Emergency Library

Because Fister resides at the nexus of authors and libraries, we wanted to understand why on April 15, 2020, she posted this to her Twitter account:

From her home in rural Minnesota, Fister (who is “not a fan of Zoom/Skype/etc”) and I corresponded by email.  “Honestly, I was surprised,” Barbara wrote. “When I started poking around the National Emergency Library I did a vanity search and—hey, look at that! I had to tweet that my books were there, because it made me happy. Then I started looking for things I would check out of my academic library if it were open, and many of those books were there, too. It’s very gratifying to have that access.” 

As Fister sees it, “Regardless of the legal issues, I think the Internet Archive has the moral high ground in launching the National Emergency Library. There’s no way people who already contributed to paying for access to books through taxes or tuition can individually purchase every book they might want to consult while the libraries they relied on (and helped to fund) are closed. We need to consider the public good in this crisis.”

Throughout her career, Fister has been a prolific writer of both fiction and non-fiction. “I’ve been able to indulge my curiosity in everything from women’s literature from the Majority World (formerly known as the Third World) to how students learn about how information works to popular literacy practices, to the impact of technology on society, to the critical analysis of crime fiction. Basically, it’s the ‘oh look, a butterfly!’ approach to scholarship.” she explained. “I also have enjoyed reading crime fiction so much that I started writing it, and was lucky enough to find an agent and publisher. I was tickled to find two of my mysteries available in the National Emergency Library.”

One reason Fister is “tickled” is because her novels, published in 2008 and 2010, are hard to find, even in libraries. “They were published a while ago, so a lot of public libraries have no doubt weeded them to make room for more recent titles, which is totally understandable,” Fister explained. “I have worried a bit about the disappearance of non-academic books from the public cultural record. There was a time scholars could rediscover overlooked women writers long after their books went out of print, because they were on the shelves of academic libraries. In recent decades, however, academic book budgets have been strained and very few libraries purchase and retain popular literature.” She believes this “gradual forgetting of the popular” makes a shared digital collection like the Internet Archive’s even more valuable. “Even without a pandemic, it’s a need that I’m happy the Internet Archive is tackling.”


This collection of essays from the Library Babel Fish blog at Inside Higher Ed is open access and licensed through Creative Commons, and downloadable to the Internet Archive.

Fister has made many of her publications completely open access, and downloadable through the Internet Archive. It’s a value she embraced as an academic librarian. “As a library, we consciously promoted open access because equitable access to information is a core library value. For that reason, I have tried to make as much of my work open access as possible. This gets tricky with books, because both authors and publishers put a great deal of work into a book, and since I respect the value editors and publishers add, I sympathize with the need to have a business model that supports that critical hand-crafted work.” 

But as both an author and a librarian, Fister doesn’t subscribe to the notion that libraries in general and the National Emergency Library in particular are cutting into author revenue.”It’s not a competition, it’s a symbiosis.” she wrote. ”I don’t think they understand how unlikely it is that allowing multiple users of these versions of their books will adversely affect their income, but it seems many authors view it as a moral argument. ‘You can’t scan my books, period. It’s my property, and you didn’t ask my permission.’ Admittedly, like most authors I don’t depend on my writing for a living; perhaps if I did I would feel differently. But as it is, I’m delighted if anyone discovers my books and enjoys them.”

There’s no way people who already contributed to paying for access to books through taxes or tuition can individually purchase every book they might want to consult while the libraries they relied on (and helped to fund) are closed. We need to consider the public good in this crisis. 

–Barbara Fister

As an academic, Fister has spoken and written extensively about information literacy, the “understanding of how information is produced and valued…ethically in communities of learning.” She points to Congress and the current copyright laws as the source of current tensions between open access advocates, libraries, authors and publishers, writing:

Launching the National Emergency Library has been risky for the Internet Archive, and I appreciate that act of risk-taking as a person who would like us to do a better job of balancing social and individual interests in the original Constitutional purpose of copyright – “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Congress has tilted much too far against society’s legitimate interest by making “limited time” for copyright owners nearly unlimited. This is actually bad for authors – and for all of us. Copyright isn’t working as it should, but people are too nervous to make full use of fair use because losing a lawsuit could be ruinous. The Authors Guild does not represent all authors. It certainly doesn’t represent my interests. I’m more aligned with the Authors Alliance.

You can find both nonfiction and fiction, podcasts and open access works by Barbara Fister in the Internet Archive.

Some day in the future, when COVID-19 is defeated and libraries are once again open, Fister believes that scholars of library history will examine this moment and “be pleased that their research is available to Americans who are learning and working from home during this historic pandemic.” 

Barbara Fister is one of those working from home. 

Fister says she often uses the National Emergency Library to “browse and sample” books for her research.

Earlier, Barbara returned a library book she needs for her research, Wayne Wiegand’s A Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of American Public Libraries, but now that her library is closed, she was delighted to find it in the National Emergency Library.  “’I’m scrolling through on my laptop, typing out quotes I want to note down; no copying and pasting or downloading the file for keeps allowed, all limits which makes it not at all like piracy,” she wrote. “This effort to make so many books available for the duration, legally risky and technically challenging, is beyond what any single library could do. While the National Emergency Library isn’t the same as our local libraries, it’s a wonderful thing to have available in these challenging times.”


How to Make a Difference Right Now Without Leaving the House

Our staff has been working from home for weeks now, keeping the Internet Archive up and running from a variety of remote locations. In the midst of all our video calls, email chains, and team chats, one theme keeps reoccurring: gratitude. We’re grateful for all of the donors who give so generously to us time and time again; we’re grateful for all of the teachers who write us with their suggestions and kind words of encouragement; we’re grateful for all of the Dead Heads who upload live shows and keep us staff entertained; we’re grateful for our partners and colleagues.

Most importantly, we are grateful that our community supports us and helps us grow. We are grateful for you

In the past few months we’ve received countless messages from our community asking “How can I help?”. People everywhere are wondering how, during these turbulent times, they can make a positive impact on the world without leaving their homes. Some folks have offered to make a donation in support of what we do, and we’re always grateful for the help! But for those who might not be able to donate right now, or who already have and wish they could do more, there are a few different ways you can lend a hand. Here are some easy ways to help the Internet Archive if you have limited time, money, mobility, or energy:

Matching Gifts
Have you donated to the Internet Archive recently? Help your gift go even further! Many companies offer matching gift programs as part of their benefits packages to employees. These organizations may be willing to double or even triple the value of your charitable gifts. Have you made a donation this year that might qualify? Curious to see if your company provides this benefit? To find out, visit our Matching Gifts page and enter your company’s name in the search box. 

Better World Books Roundup Program
There’s nothing like a good book to whisk you off and help wile away the hours while stuck inside. When you buy a book from Better World Books, you have the option of rounding up your purchase to support the Internet Archive. Since we launched this partnership back in December 2019, these roundups have resulted in $11,000 for the Internet Archive! A little bit certainly goes a long way. To our friends at Better World Books and to all who have ‘rounded up’ 10 cents here and 45 cents there, thank you. To wander their digital bookshelves for your next book purchase, visit the Better World Books website.

Amazon Smile
Fresh veggies, canned goods, dish soap, the elusive toilet paper…many people are doing most of their shopping these days using delivery apps like Amazon. Did you know that Amazon Smile gives back .5% of every purchase you make to the participating non-profit of your choice?  If you find yourself hitting their “virtual checkout” button more often, make sure you do so with Amazon Smile! And if you decide to make the Internet Archive the beneficiary, we’d be ever so grateful. To sign up and support us, visit: https://smile.amazon.com/ch/94-3242767

BAT Brave Attention Tokens
We love Brave, the browser that lets you tip the websites you love and has the Wayback Machine natively built right into their browser! If you are a Brave Browser user and would like to learn more about its tipping program (and to throw a couple of nickels our way) you can do so here: https://support.brave.com/hc/en-us/articles/360021123971-How-do-I-tip-websites-and-Content-Creators-in-Brave-Rewards-

Donate Books
Looking for a forever home for all those books that no longer spark joy? Look no further than Better World Books. Every book they receive will be resold, donated, recycled… or digitized and added to the Internet Archive, so that readers everywhere can enjoy it. All books (in good condition) are welcome! Visit https://www.betterworldbooks.com/go/donate to find a dropbox location near you. 

Host a Facebook Fundraiser
Is your birthday coming up? Or looking for a good way to spread the word about the Internet Archive to friends and family? Why not try out hosting a fundraiser on Facebook! To learn more, visit https://www.facebook.com/fund/internetnetarchive/

Spread the Word!
One simple way to support us is by using the Archive and spreading the word to your friends and family. We don’t have an advertising or marketing team, so we definitely appreciate all the help we can get with promotion. If the Wayback Machine saved your website or you found a cool collection that made your day, tell a friend! You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We’ve got a once a month newsletter you can join, and make sure to bookmark our blog!

Thanks for helping us out! Your support helps journalists, teachers, researchers, high school students, kindergarteners, PhD candidates, genealogists, old time radio enthusiasts, Dead Heads, podcasters, developers, and readers of all ages get the information they want, the information they need, and the information they love. We thank you for all your contributions, big and small. Every little bit (and byte) counts. 

Free Hand Sewn Masks at 300 Funston Ave in San Francisco

One of the few people working in our headquarters building, Roxana Alfaro Rodriguez has been busy sewing cloth masks to give away.  We now have a dozen ready and they are available for free in a box in front of the Internet Archive.

If you would like one, please come by 300 Funston Avenue.  Please only take one or maybe two.  They take about 30 minutes apiece to make.  Thank you, Roxana, for your amazing sewing skills!


Stay Safe, Everyone!

24,444 Thank yous to Better World Books Customers for Round-Up Tips!

Thanks to the 24,444 book lovers who sent us a “round up” donations through Better World Books.

Our friends at Better World Books, the wonderful online bookstore (which is shipping during the current crisis) added a “round up your bill” feature so that purchasers could add up to 99 cents to their order as a donation to the Internet Archive.   

Thanks to the generosity of their customers, Better World Books sent us a check for $11,000 in donations!  The average donation was 45 cents. Thank you to 24,444 customers of Better World Books for supporting our nonprofit library! 

Better World Books, is a B-corp, a social benefit corporation, dedicated to social good projects including supporting literacy programs, the Internet Archive, and Books for Africa. And they are now owned by a non-profit charity, Better World Libraries, making it now completely mission aligned with the non-profit Internet Archive.

A big Internet Archive thank you to Better World Books customers! A great way for our community to support them in these times would be to buy a book from Better World Books.  And remember, please round up if you are able!

The Law is Ruled to be a Public Resource

The Supreme Court held today that copyright protection does not extend to the law – in this case, to the annotations in Georgia State’s annotated code. Justice Roberts explained that the animating principle behind this rule is that no one can own the law. “Every citizen is presumed to know the law,” and “it needs no argument to show . . . that all should have free access to its contents.”

This is a victory for our friends at Public.Resource.Org, the public domain, and the public at large.
Free access to the law is core to the ability of our citizenry to fully participate in our democratic society. The Internet Archive has worked with Public Resource for 6 years to make the law fully searchable and downloadable to the public for free. We applaud this outcome and hope that more legal works will come to be available to the public in the coming days and weeks. We are glad this fight is over.

Working the Public.Resource.org, the Internet Archive provides free access to laws from many states at https://archive.org/details/govlaw

Forging a Cooperative Path Forward: University Presses & the National Emergency Library

A call for help was sounded when it became clear that libraries were going to close indefinitely worldwide. The International Coalition of Library Consortia warned that the current system most libraries operate under was grossly insufficient to meet the crisis. We were in a unique position to respond and offer emergency relief to teachers and students around the world, so that’s what we did. We opened the National Emergency Library (NEL) on March 24, at a time UNESCO was reporting over 390 million students were being impacted. Today UNESCO reports that over 90% of the world’s student population is affected by school closures.

We were operating on pandemic time, but knew it wasn’t going to be the end of the conversation. Three days after we opened NEL, the Association of Research Libraries again urged publishers to maximize digital access. At this time we were busy providing this access to the best of our ability while beginning to respond to legitimate concerns from non-library stakeholders. We had designed an opt-out system for authors from the beginning, and our next big hurdle turned out to be working with university presses — many of whom we partner with — to address their concerns.

University presses react to NEL

In the hectic times of universities closing, we emailed our university press partners of the upcoming launch of NEL. The weekend after launching the NEL, we got a message from colleagues within the university press community saying some were not pleased with the NEL and the use of their published works within it.  Responding quickly, we held an open community call the following Tuesday to hear from directors and other members of the university press community.

There’s no way around it – it was a tough call. While challenging, it also provided an opportunity for the Internet Archive to clarify why we had released the NEL—namely, to support students and educators with temporary access to a digital library while their schools and libraries are closed and their print collections are unavailable. We believed that NEL was necessary to provide educational access to teachers and students who were not in a position to double buy the books their communities had invested in but could not safely distribute. We have since had numerous teachers reach out to us and confirm that this is the case.

However, that doesn’t mean that other stakeholders do not matter to us. We listened to the concerns, and frankly displeasure, of important members of the university press community. John Sherer, Director of UNC Press, was one of these critics and was unhappy with what he and many within the university press community saw as a unilateral move by the Internet Archive.

But something changed during the community call. In hearing our openness to listen to the community and their concerns, Sherer saw a common path forward. “The goals you had articulated aligned so closely with many of our goals and the sense of mission that drives us at UNC Press. Namely, making high quality scholarship as widely available as possible.”  Never one to rest idly, Sherer seized the moment, calculating that “if you all would consider a methodology I believe to be more equitable…I would pitch you on it and see if we could get to the common goal.”

And pitch he did. Along with Dean Smith, Director of Duke University Press, John drafted a Statement of Cooperation to help put structure around a publisher’s participation in the National Emergency Library. Both presses released blog posts (UNC Press here, Duke University Press here) to help contextualize why they disagreed with the process that the Internet Archive took in launching the NEL, and to describe why they ultimately decided to create the Statement of Cooperation so that they could support the National Emergency Library in a way they felt comfortable.

We appreciate the hard work of these university presses to find solutions to work together to provide students and researchers the resources they need during this difficult time. The statement they drafted is intended to be flexible and reusable. We hope that other publishers and presses will follow suit and sign on.

Why are university press books so important?

We consider our partnerships with university presses as a major milestone in making the NEL work for everyone to meet the immediate educational needs of those suffering from the pandemic. The Internet Archive has a long history of collaboration with the university press community, working with MIT Press, Cornell University Press, and others to digitize titles from their backlists.  

We believe that university press books are a cornerstone of the NEL. University press books are evergreen, well-cited in Wikipedia, and are the foundations of much scholarship.The materials published by university presses represent the preeminent scholarly output of America’s research universities. They present peer-reviewed research and analysis of use to policymakers and scholars, and provide materials that help shape and inform a literate and informed culture. In short, university press books are exactly the kind of content that people need access to right now.

The road ahead

It is our wish that the NEL only last as long as it is needed, and that’s why we gave ourselves an end date. We will continue to work with stakeholders during this time to find solutions to make the NEL work the best it can under these emergency conditions. We are proud of our work on the NEL, but not so proud as to not accept thoughtful criticism. We encourage university presses, as well as other stakeholders, to work with us to continue to improve the NEL.

We also know that there are many difficulties facing all stakeholders due to the pandemic. Financial hardships are already being reported across the nation’s universities. University presses face challenges ahead in fulfilling their mission, but do so with an eye towards change. In considering the future, Sherer reflects, “UNC Press has survived world wars, depressions, recessions…and our building even burned to the ground once. We will endure. What we’re working on now is trying to understand what that new landscape might look like and to see if we can help define a values-driven publishing model that can thrive in that new reality.” 

As Sherer later told us, “while we’re pleased that the NEL is making our books available at no cost to readers, I hope that the readers can remember that it wasn’t cost-less to produce those books.” We understand this concern. The Internet Archive uses a system called Controlled Digital Lending which leverages the number of loaned copies to the number of committed uncirculating physical copies and protects against redistribution by using the same digital rights management tools that publishers use; the temporary National Emergency Library, while using the same protections was built to address the suddenly and temporarily uncirculating books locked up in closed libraries.  The original purchase of these books is the traditional way libraries support publishers and authors while also retaining the freedom to decide how to best serve our patrons. The NEL is a short term measure to meet the emergency needs of those impacted by school and library closures. We also welcome a continued dialog with publishers and authors on this issue.

The NEL will soon close and the world will continue to evolve. We need to look forward to how we can help meet the informational and educational needs of this changing world. The Internet Archive will continue to work with university presses and other stakeholders as we all adjust to a dominantly digital world. The Internet Archive is committed to working with presses and publishers to help describe and implement new values-driven publishing models that will be needed in this new world. The world’s digital learners need us all to succeed so they get to read the best humanity has created. 

If you are an academic press or commercial publisher and would like to make your collections available through the National Emergency Library or work together to define a values-driven publishing model, please consider the Statement of Cooperation and reach out with additional questions.

Ways to Engage on Earth Day 2020


This image taken from Apollo 17 in 1972, captured first view of the south polar ice cap.

Fifty years ago, the Apollo spacecrafts brought back the first images of the “Whole Earth,” sparking a new consciousness about humankind’s relationship to our planet. Today, on Earth Day 2020, we stand at a pivotal moment. COVID-19 has led to cleaner air, clearer waters, and huge reductions in our use of fossil fuels. But what comes next?

On that very first Earth Day in 1970, this is how television anchor Walter Cronkite framed it:

A day set aside for a nationwide outpouring of mankind seeking its own survival: Earth Day….the message is clear:  Act or die.

— Walter Cronkite on the CBS News

Whether you are a gamer, teacher, environmentalist or just an avid learner, here are a few of our favorite Earth Day resources from the Internet Archive to use and share. 

From NASA: Our Planet & Beyond in Image and Sound

This picture of the Earth and Moon in a single frame was taken by the Galileo spacecraft from about 3.9 million miles away. Antarctica is visible through clouds (bottom) and we can see the far side of the Moon.

Back in the 1960 and 70s, when the Apollo Missions were in full throttle, these images from NASA of Earth and the polar ice caps were jaw dropping. The Internet Archive is proud to partner with NASA to preserve their rich archives—more than 100 collections of  audio, video, and images of space exploration.

Games to Defend the Earth

From our Software Curator, Jason Scott, here are some vintage software packages you can play to either learn about, save, or fight for the Earth. Jason suggests starting with the classic from 1990, SimEarth by Maxis, a simulator where you try to keep the entire Earth (Gaia) happy.

Next up a classic from 1985: Your Universe Volume 2: The Planet Earth. Apple II educational software from Focus Media.

Finally, why not end with a nice Earth Defense arcade game? U.N. Defense Force: Earth Joker (Japan), is a 1993 SHMUP (Shoot ’em Up) where you use one of four pilots to defend the Earth.

Gifs to Enjoy the Earth

Back in the day, Citizens of GeoCities loved to create GIFS, and we’ve pulled them all together in a nifty search engine that we call GIFCities. If you want to use and see an archive of Earth Gifs, here they are for you to enjoy:

https://gifcities.org/?q=earth

Books to Understand the Earth

For young readers:  

The Official Earth Day Guide to Planet Repair, by Denis Hayes

This useful guide was written back in 2000 for a new generation of Earth Day activists by Denis Hayes, the national coordinator of the very first Earth Day. Chock full of quizzes, interesting analogies and painless steps to reduce our own energy use, The Official Earth Day Guide to Planet Repair has as much to offer on the 50th Earth Day anniversary as it did on the 30th.

The book that started it all…

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

When Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962, “environment” was not even a concept, let alone a movement. As Al Gore writes in his introduction to this edition:

Silent Spring came as a cry in the wilderness, a deeply felt, thoroughly researched, and brilliantly written argument that changed the course of history. Without this book, the environmental movement might have been long delayed or never have developed at all.


For readers willing to think metaphysically:  

The End of Nature by Bill McKibben

Back in 1989, Bill McKibben was already trying to wake us up to the problems larger than any single environmental issue: ozone layers, air pollution, the diminishing rainforests. In The End of Nature, this deep thinker and tireless activist asked us to step back to understand humankind’s relationship to nature itself, to turn off the destructive path we were on. Twenty-one years later, it’s not too late to listen.


And while we are separated during this pandemic, Earth Day reminds us: our lives and fates are connected across one Earth. Today, tune in to virtual gatherings that are “flooding the world with hope, optimism and action” at https://www.earthday.org/.

Teachers & the National Emergency Library: Stories from the Frontlines of Online Schooling

The numbers are staggering. According to UNESCO:

  • 91% of the world’s learners have been impacted by school closures.
  • 1,576,021,818 learners are cut off from their classrooms
  • 188 countries have shut down schools nationwide.

Obscured in those figures are the individual teachers, librarians and students struggling to carry on classroom instruction without the books they need. Since this pandemic began, we have heard from hundreds of them, reaching out to figure out some way to keep teaching and learning going in their town, church, library or home school. 

Here are some dispatches from teachers, librarians and students on the frontlines of online schooling.

Helping K-12 students connect with books

In one of the first states to shutter schools and order residents to shelter at home, Erin S. is a 6th grade teacher of history and English in Sacramento, California. She’s been scrambling to teach virtually a unit onThe Adventures of Ulysses by Bernard EvslinHer middle school has hundreds of copies of this book, locked away and now beyond reach.  We received this urgent message from Erin, signed, Desperate Teachers!:

During the COVID emergency, students can check out “Ulysses” and renew it after the two week lending period is over.

At our school site, we have enough copies of this book for all of the 6th-grade students (300).  However, since we are not allowed to come to campus to check these books out we were looking for online PDF or ‘checkout’ possibilities.

I came across your website and services, found the copy we are looking for, and it is amazing because it looks like an actual book instead of just a word document.  I checked it out, but then noticed it says I can only borrow it for 14 days. This unit takes us longer than 2 weeks and we also have a lot of students who need this book.  Is there a way to lift the restrictions to borrow this book while we are in school closure?  

I am so grateful and excited to share your services with our students.  Teachers are desperate for any and all help right now and luckily our communities and beyond are coming to the front lines to help advocate for us! We really appreciate all you have done to help us!

At Downtown College Prep school in San Jose, California, one hard-pressed instructor sent us this call for help:

I am an instructional coach at a middle school charter school in San Jose, CA. Currently all the schools in our area are shut down as I’m sure you are aware. I am also leading the teaching of our two 5th grade classes right now. Here is my problem. One of our fifth grade classes was sent home without books to read. The class that I have been teaching literacy in (we lost a teacher mid-year), I sent home with 4 books. Eventually these books are going to run out and I am desperate to get books in these kids hands…or on their screens.

For middle school teacher (and climber!), Terri S., teaching online often presents huge barriers.

Teacher Terri S. of Cloudcroft, NM writes:

I teach all of the 6th, 7th and 8th grade students in my district, and Quarter Four (the time we are in right now) is set aside for a novel study. I cannot pass out our classroom sets of novels and was looking for a way for students to read the books digitally. Your site is a Godsend. Thank you for your help.

From a 7th grade teacher in Fairfield, PA we received this request:

For 25 years, one teacher has taught his favorite novel, “The Pushcar War.”

I have taught “The Pushcart War” novel in my class for most of my 25 years in education, and it is my favorite novel. I notice that you have it on your website to borrow as well as listen.

With schools being shut down indefinitely in the state of Pennsylvania, I was not able to give each student a copy of this novel from my classroom before we closed, and I had no idea that schools would be shut down this long. Is there any way my students can have an Open Library account set up…in order for them to enjoy this book during this unprecedented time? 


About one hundred miles from the epicenter of the outbreak, in Franklinville, New Jersey, Anne Papiano is the Media Specialist for the Delsea Regional High School District. It’s April, but she’s already worrying about how to get summer reading list books to students in her district. Her district owns physical copies of these books, but if schools remain closed for the entire school year, she won’t be able to reach them. She explains:

Media Specialist, Anne Papiano, works close to COVID’s epicenters in New York and New Jersey.

Our students will be unable to check out our schools’ physical copies of the required summer reading books. I am writing to you to request that access to the National Emergency Library be extended throughout the summer (perhaps until September 2020). This will give students who do not have the means to purchase their own copies to have equitable access to digital copies…for their summer assignments.

Thank you for working on behalf of those of us who are promoting literacy, even through difficult times.

From college professors and librarians

The impact is not limited to public K-12 school students. In the University of Washington article, “Why the National Emergency Library Matters to Huskies,” UW Libraries answered this central question:

As a Librarian, how does this impact your work to facilitate e-book orders for classes?

UW Librarians have been fielding ebook requests for required textbooks over the last week. Before the Emergency Library was announced, Librarians faced a common challenge– in many cases, there was simply no multi-user ebook available for the Libraries to order — this changed dramatically with the opening of the National Emergency Library.

History Librarian, Theresa Mudrock says this has made a real difference, but challenges still exist.

“Today, I was able to inform 10 instructors that the books they needed were now available, whereas yesterday they were not,” said Mudrock.

Over at George Washington University in Washington, DC, history professor, Tyler Anbinder, explained how his students are using the National Emergency Library:

My students could not finish the semester without the National Emergency Library. It has been a total lifesaver. Not for books that are “in print” electronically. My library has been buying those.  But for all the 30 to 50-year-old books that are out of print but essential for doing good history research.


Professor Anbinder also shared this message with consent from a sophomore in his course on Abraham Lincoln, caught off guard without access to her university’s library for this week’s reading:

College sophomore, Meaghan Burnes, had to leave campus before checking out all the books she needs to complete her coursework this semester.

Dear Professor Anbinder,

I have spent the past two days searching every inch of my house to find my copy of Lincoln’s Quest for Union. After trying to think of any place where this book might have gone, I remembered that the reason I cannot find it is because I do not have it. I was planning on borrowing it from the library because I was not able to buy each book. I would have gotten it from Gelman before I left DC, but we were all under the impression that we would be returning to campus on April 5th. 

I am so sorry, this is a huge mistake on my part. How should I proceed with this?

Sincerely,

Meaghan Burnes

Professor Anbinder was able to send her directly to this copy in the National Emergency Library so Meaghan could do the class reading in time.

Another college librarian, Amanda Dinscore, from Fresno State Library, sent us this note:

Many thanks to you and your IA colleagues for the National Emergency Library. Just found a book for a faculty member who was really frustrated about not being able to access a print copy of a book that I immediately found on the NEL. Win!

Authors React

But what is a win for teachers, librarians and students, comes at a cost, some say, in lost book sales for publishers and authors. Katie Smith offered perspectives from both authors and learners in her article for Book & Film Globe, including this viewpoint from a writer and homeschooling parent:

Writer and parent Amber DeGrace cites the Internet Archive as pivotal in her ability to transition to homeschooling her children. “What makes the Internet Archive so beneficial for educational purposes is that many older or out-of-print books that might not be available on bookselling sites are readily available here,” she tells Book & Film Globe. “For instance, a recommended book for my kids’ history curriculum is Morning Girl by Michael Dorris. While I could have purchased it on Amazon, I can’t afford to buy all these supplemental resources, and our local libraries have been closed for weeks.” It was, however, available for borrowing in the National Emergency Library.

Even Professor Anbinder, who is enthusiastic about the availability of older literature in the National Emergency Library, closed his message acknowledging, “I certainly understand how the authors of recent books would be mad to find their books there.”

No one has criticized the National Emergency Library more forcefully than New York Times bestselling author, Chuck Wendig. So we appreciated this honest exchange following Wendig’s Terrible Minds blog, with a writer and public librarian named Rachel:

RACHEL

March 31, 2020 @ 11:39 AM

Your argument is very compelling. It will certainly make me rethink telling any patrons to take a look at the “emergency” library.

The only counterarguments I could offer are from problems we are having on this side of the publishing/reader process.

For example: as I am a fan, I have already purchased your books for my patrons the old-fashioned way. We own them. But no one can use them. Is that your problem? Eh– no. Because of this issue, though, I’ve spent $3,000 of my materials money this month buying digital versions of books we already own. And… that’s it. No more money. It took everything I have to buy all those stupid Erin Hunter books so middle schoolers will stop doing the unspeakable things middle schoolers do when left idle. Also not your problem– unless they start roving in 6th grade gangs a la The Warriors.

It would help if digital books weren’t insanely expensive. On average, an adult book costs me about $65. THEN, it can only be checked out 26 times. After 26 checkouts, it disappears from the collection and I have to buy it again. That’s $2.50 every time someone checks a book out. And digital readers have a bad habit of checking out multiple books at a time whether they read them or not because they don’t have to return them.

So I feel like THAT is the actual problem. And if digital providers weren’t trying to gouge the eyeballs out of public libraries, this conversation would be over.

Just some thoughts. Stay safe.

Reply

TERRIBLEMINDS
March 31, 2020 @ 11:54 AM

There is a huge issue with how pricing is set up, and different publishers have made that more (and in some cases less) difficult, in what I assume is an effort to promote print and not yield the field to digital. And there’s a big conversation to have in that, and about that, and authors have attempted (sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much) to facilitate a better deal for libraries on behalf of the author/publisher.

Lessons Learned

Last week we released a first look at some trends in use of the National Emergency Library.  Corroborating what we are hearing from professors, our patrons are seeking older books: more than 90% of the books borrowed were published more than 10 years ago and two-thirds were published during the 20th century.  Most patrons who borrow books from the National Emergency Library are reading them for less than 30 minutes, suggesting they are using the book for research as a reference check, or perhaps they are simply browsing as in a library or bookstore.

In the few weeks since the National Emergency Library was established, much has been said in the Twittersphere about the very real needs of publishers and authors. Completely missing in the debate are the voices of the 1,576,021,818 students worldwide cut off from their books—books already purchased by their schools, public libraries and community colleges. For a few weeks, until this educational and public health crisis subsides, the National Emergency Library is trying to help fill this void.

The National Emergency Library – Who Needs It? Who Reads It? Lessons from the First Two Weeks

At a time when every day can feel like a month, it’s hard to believe that the National Emergency Library has only existed for two weeks. Recognizing the unique challenges of connecting students and readers with books now on shelves they cannot reach, the Internet Archive loosened the restrictions on our controlled digital lending library to allow increased lending of materials. Reactions have been passionate, to say the least—elation by teachers able to  access our virtual stacks, concern by authors about the program’s impact, and fundamental questions about our role as a library in these dire times when one billion students worldwide are cut off from their classrooms and libraries.

For those of you who are being introduced to us for the first time due to the National Emergency Library: Welcome! The doors of the Internet Archive have been open for nearly 25 years and we’ve served hundreds of millions of visitors—we’ve always got room to welcome one more. And for those of you who have tracked our evolution through the years, we know you have questions.

When we turned off waitlists for our lending library on March 24th, it was in response to messages and requests we’d been getting from many sources—librarians who were closing their doors in response to lockdowns, school teachers who were concerned their students could no longer do research and discovery through the primary sources they had on campus, and organizations we respected who knew we had the capability to fill an unexpected gap. A need that we knew we could provide quickly in response.

We moved in “Internet Time” and the speed and swiftness of our solution surprised some and caught others off guard. In our rush to help we didn’t engage with the creator community and the ecosystem in which their works are made and published. We hear your concerns and we’ve taken action: the Internet Archive has added staff to our Patron Services team and we are responding quickly to the incoming requests to take books out of the National Emergency Library. While we can’t go back in time, we can move forward with more information and insight based on data the National Emergency Library has generated thus far.

The Internet Archive takes reader privacy seriously, so we don’t have specific analytics or logs to share (we took the government to court to assure we didn’t have to do that,) but we do have some general information that may be of use to authors, publishers and readers about the ways patrons are using the National Emergency Library. We will be sharing more in the coming weeks of this crisis.

Majority of books are borrowed for less than 30 minutes

Even with a preview function where readers can see the first few pages of a book, most people who go through the check out process are looking at the book for less than 30 minutes, with no more interactions until it is automatically returned two weeks later. We suspect that fewer than 10% of books borrowed are actually opened again after the first day (but we have more work to do to confirm this). Patrons may be using the checked-out book for fact checking or research, but we suspect a large number of people are browsing the book in a way similar to browsing library shelves.

The total number of books that are checked out and read is about the number of books borrowed from a town library

Trying to compare a physical check-out of a book with a digital check-out is difficult. Assuming that the number of physical books borrowed from a library corresponds to digitally borrowed books that are read after the first day, then the Internet Archive currently lends about as many as a US library that serves a population of about 30,000.

Our usage pattern may be more like a serendipitous walk through a bookstore or the library stacks. In the real world, a patron takes a book off the shelf, flips through to see if it’s of interest, and then either selects the book or puts it back on the shelf. However, in our virtual library, to flip fully through the book you have to borrow it. The large number of books that have no activity beyond the first few minutes of interaction suggest patrons are using our service to browse books.

90% of the books borrowed were published more than 10 years ago, two-thirds were published during the 20th century

The books in the National Emergency Library were published between 1925 and 5 years ago, because books older than that are in the public domain—out of copyright and fully downloadable. Books newer than 5 years are not in the National Emergency Library. Unlike the age of most books in bookstores, the books readers are borrowing are older books, with 10% being from the last 10 years. Two-thirds of these books were published during the 20th century.

And when people find what they need, it solves a problem, such as this subject librarian who found a book published in 1975:

A bit of Fun: Some of the least common subject catagories of borrowed books

These subject tags come from library catalog records and other annotations by organizations such as ISKME has done with the Universal School Library collection, assigned to aid search and discovery of resources for educators.

We’ll continue to glean and share what we can as this project continues and we hope that the needs that gave rise to the National Emergency Library come to an end soon.

Happy 404 Day! 

Saturday is April 4th (4/04), and here at the Internet Archive we’re marking a new holiday: 404 Day! We’re using this date to celebrate the work that’s being done to end the dreaded 404 error, record changing webpages, and preserve the internet for all to enjoy. We spoke with Gary Price—librarian, editor of InfoDocket, and a prolific user of the Wayback Machine—about why web archiving is important and how ordinary people can fight back against “link rot.” 

Preserving the Past

Why does the Wayback Machine matter? “We’re in a period right now where the tools the Internet Archive has developed are more important than ever before,” Price said. “In my work as a librarian I’ve learned how easily things can ‘disappear’. Something you see could be removed within a fraction of a second, and the next time you look it’s gone.”

An old hymnal board at the Internet Archive's 
headquarters—filled in with HTTP response codes
An old hymnal board at the Internet Archive’s
headquarters—filled in with HTTP response codes

Similar losses have happened for newly developed media in the past, Price explained. For example, a huge amount of early television footage disappeared because nobody recorded or archived it at the time. The issue is compounded when dealing with a massive system like the Internet, which is constantly growing and changing. “There’s really nothing like the Wayback Machine,” he said. “It’s so important for historical purposes.”

Price believes that it’s even more crucial to preserve information in the midst of a crisis. “With COVID-19,” he said, “we have a global event going on where nobody knows how it’s going to end. Most of it is going to play out on the Internet. If we don’t archive it now, the record for the future is not going to be as complete as it could have been. We need to make it so that we’ll have a complete record of this pandemic to learn from: primary documents, news reports, local materials, and digital ephemera.”

Making the Most of the Wayback Machine

There are a number of useful tools that can make the Wayback Machine part of your daily internet experience. If you want to avoid running into 404 errors in the future, then the easiest thing you can do is integrate the Wayback Machine into your browser. We’ve created a handy series of browser extensions for Safari, Chrome, and Firefox that allow you to view archived versions of webpages with just the click of a button. And if you use the Brave browser, that functionality is directly integrated into the browsing experience!

The Wayback Machine browser extension
The Wayback Machine browser extension in action

Curious about how a webpage has shifted over time? The Changes feature is an easy way to compare two versions of the same webpage side-by-side. We deployed this feature last fall to make it easier than ever to see how the web is evolving.

In addition to the hundreds of millions of URLs archived by the Wayback Machine staff every day, several tens of millions of URLs are archived because they were submitted by the general public via the Save Page Now feature. If you come across something that you think needs to be preserved, you can use this tool to ensure that the Wayback Machine captures a snapshot of it. It’s as simple as visiting web.archive.org/save and pasting your desired URL in. If you have the browser plugin, you can save any page you visit with the click of a button!

The Save Page Now feature
The Save Page Now feature

Getting Started

What advice does Price have for beginning archivers? “The first thing to do,” he says, “is to sign up for an Internet Archive account. It gives you a lot of great features, but my favorite is the option to not only archive a page, but also to archive all of those outbound links in that page.”

Price also recommends that new users make their archiving personal. “Just start recording things you’re already looking at on a daily basis! The articles you read, interesting websites, information pages from your university, local news, and so on. It doesn’t take a long time—you’re already reading the webpage, so just press the ‘Save Page Now’ button.”

Since big news stories or major websites are usually crawled automatically, Price recommends that citizen archivists make sure to include local, personal, and small-scale websites. “It’s about the little stuff, the obscure stuff, the stuff that’s buried three layers deep. That’s not going to get covered in the same way as the most popular content, and it might not get covered at all if you don’t add it. That’s why the individual doing it is so important.”

Last but not least, Price says, “Do what you can! Add stuff that you’re interested in or think is worth saving. Make it a habit, and spread the word to people you know!”

If you want to celebrate 404 Day with us, there are a lot of ways to get started! Download the Firefox, Chrome, or Safari browser extensions, save a webpage, revisit the past, or make a donation to help us keep the Wayback Machine humming along.

Happy archiving!

One of the earliest captures of AOL.com
One of the earliest captures of AOL.com