In a stunning show of support for libraries, late yesterday afternoon the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to support a resolution backing the Internet Archive and the digital rights of all libraries.
Supervisor Connie Chan, whose district includes the Internet Archive, authored the legislation and brought the resolution before the Board. “At a time when we are seeing an increase in censorship and book bans across the country, we must move to preserve free access to information,” said Supervisor Chan. “I am proud to stand with the Internet Archive, our Richmond District neighbor, and digital libraries throughout the United States.”
WATCH Supervisor Chan introduce the resolution:
What’s in the resolution?
The resolution is a powerful statement in support of libraries, beginning:
Resolution recognizing the irreplaceable public value of libraries, including online libraries like the Internet Archive, and the essential rights of all libraries to own, preserve, and lend both digital and print books to the residents of San Francisco and the wider public; supporting the Internet Archive and its public service mission; and urging the California State Legislature and the United States Congress to support digital rights for libraries, including controlled digital lending and the option for libraries to own their digital collections.
Rally on the steps of San Francisco City Hall
Before the vote, supporters rallied outside on the steps of City Hall. Joining Supervisor Chan on the steps were Brewster Kahle, Internet Archive; Cindy Cohn, Electronic Frontier Foundation; Chuck Roslof, Wikimedia Foundation; and author and activist Liz Henry.
“It’s a sad day that we have to be here to talk about the importance of maintaining access to information through libraries,” said Brewster Kahle, Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive. “We must stand firm in our commitment to providing Universal Access to All Knowledge.”
“The Internet Archive and its goal of universal access to all human knowledge represents the best of Technology.” said Cindy Cohn, Executive Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “We must stand up for the privacy of our reading, the digital lending strategies that publishers want to promote violates our privacy and our ability to investigate freely.”
“The work of the Wikimedia Foundation centers around providing access to knowledge for all people, around the world.” said Chuck Roslof, Lead Counsel at the Wikimedia Foundation. “In this mission, Wikipedia doesn’t stand alone. Libraries and archives play a critical role as part of our ecosystem of free knowledge, to ensure that all of us have access to reliable, accurate information about the world around us. The Internet Archive is the internet’s library, and it is an invaluable resource to Wikipedia editors and readers…”
Author and disability justice activist Liz Henry spoke about the importance of digital libraries from their experience as a wheelchair user. “Access to digital lending from libraries and the Internet Archive is a critical lifeline for disabled people and seniors.” said Henry, going on to explain how they used the Internet Archive to research a brick that they found under their house during construction. Using materials from the web, as well as digital books from the Internet Archive and San Francisco Public Library, Henry was able to determine that the brick, stamped C H for City Hall, was manufactured in the 1870s, and was part of the original City Hall structure, which burned down in the 1906 earthquake. Henry completed their research while they were having mobility issues and limited to the house, underscoring the importance of digital access to library materials. You can read more about this fascinating discovery on Henry’s blog.
Many thanks to Supervisor Chan for being a strong advocate for libraries, and for making San Francisco the first municipality to codify the importance of digital libraries and controlled digital lending in a resolution. Many thanks as well to all the supporters who joined us on the steps and who submitted letters in support of the resolution.