Ever wonder what it looked like inside the old concert halls of London? Curious to learn about the English folk tradition of mummering, where people dress up in disguise and perform in plays in their neighborhoods?
Soon readers all over the world will be able to dive in and learn more once nearly 1,000 books about theater history from the 18th and 19th centuries are online. The collection was recently donated by the Hamilton Public Library (HPL) in Ontario to the Internet Archive for digitization.
“Through our partnership, we are just so appreciative that the Internet Archive is able to make the collection available to the world 24/7,” said Lisa Weaver, director of collections and program development at HPL.
The rich array of books was given to HPL in 1984 by a local university drama professor who was interested in the cultural history of the theater. The collection includes books on the technical details of theater, such as lighting and staging, different actors and playwrights in the theatre community, as well as architecture of various types of British and American theaters.
Because some of the donated books were written by the donor, the availability of the entire collection allows interested researchers to follow the evolution of an author’s perspective on a subject. “The ability to trace the history of thought and ideas is a powerful tool,” said Ryan Johnston, archivist of local history and archives at HPL. “This helps achieve one of the original promises of the Internet, namely as a vehicle for democratizing thought—making knowledge as broadly accessible as possible by removing many of the geographical and physical barriers.”
The Canadian library was doing a standard periodic review of its holdings, when it was determined the collection of American and British material did not fit within the public library’s mandate, which focuses primarily on works from the Hamilton area. The library contacted several university libraries and theater archives to find a new home for the collection, but ultimately decided the Internet Archive would provide access to the broadest audience.
“In the stewardship of collections, it’s a fine balance between what you can accept and what you can realistically store,” Johnston said. For HPL, it made more sense to donate to the Internet Archive, which could take a physical copy of a book, digitize it, and put it online for interested readers no matter their location. “This way we are doing both good collections management and also increasing accessibility,” he said.
HPL donated more than 70 boxes of books on two pallets, which were transported by the Internet Archive to its physical archive facilities. After the books are digitized, the print copies will be put in long-term storage out of circulation, and the digital books will be made available through controlled digital lending. The books cover a wide variety of topics including theater construction, history of traveling troupes, theater lighting in the age of gas, the art of scenic design and other aspects of the evolution of the theater.
Johnston said he expects the books will appeal to anyone with an interest in the theater, including historians, researchers and the general public. Although there was a time when physically holding everything was the way to ensure long term preservation, Johnston encourages others to look at the opportunity of partnering with the Internet Archive to digitize materials.
“It’s important that any institution—whether that’s a library, archive or museum—do a reappraisal of their collection and take a hard look at their options,” Johnston said. “If anything, the pandemic has taught me that people are really looking for material to be as easily accessible as possible. The more memory institutions can do that, the better.”
If you have a collection that you would like to make available to all, the Internet Archive would be happy to preserve and digitize your materials:
Check out our help center article for more information about donating physical items to the Internet Archive.
Register now for our upcoming webinar about our physical donations program – May 27, 2021 @ 1pm ET
“Libraries provide vital public services by making high quality resources available to everybody. And that’s true no matter what you’ve got in your bank account or your zip code,” said Wyden, noting he is the son of a librarian. “If the system is filled with draconian copyright laws and digital restrictions that make it hard for real news to be read, shared, and discussed, that particular vacuum is filled with more misinformation and lies.”
Big special interests have always pushed for tighter restrictions on content, Wyden said, and now powerful corporations are trying to get a tighter grip on the internet. He cautioned that the proposed Digital Copyright Act is not the answer, saying he would fight for more balanced intellectual property laws and support libraries to provide easy, free access to reliable information from trustworthy sources.
“We want a game with many winners. We want to have many authors, publishers, booksellers, libraries—and everyone a reader,” said Internet Archive Founder Brewster Kahle at the event. “The only way to do that is to have a level playing field that doesn’t have monopoly control.”
The pandemic has underscored the need for digital content to be readily available to the public. Libraries should be able to lend and preserve just as they have with print materials for years, however, many large publishers refuse to sell e-books to libraries and instead have restrictive licensing agreements.
“We’re seeing a change in the environment, which means you still need a card to get access to books, but it’s no longer a library card, it’s increasingly a credit card,” said Heather Joseph, executive director of SPARC, a global advocacy organization working to make education and research open and equitable by design for everyone. “We really need interventions that work to combat that shift, to flip that dynamic.”
To expand access to knowledge, Internet Archive has been digitizing the materials and respectfully lending them one copy at a time through Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) since 2011. The widespread practice is embraced by more than 80 libraries as part of Internet Archive’s Open Libraries program, and is growing across the country in various implementations elsewhere as demand increases.
“If you actually take a look at how [CDL] operates, the lending function is really no more and no less than what libraries are able to do in print. It’s just changed formats,” said Michelle Wu, an attorney and law librarian who pioneered the concept of CDL. The practice can serve people who aren’t able to physically get to a library because they live in a rural area, have a disability that limits transportation, work odd hours, are ill or quarantined during a pandemic. Libraries want to reward authors for creating their works, but also ensure the public has access to those works, Wu said.
It would be a better use of public funds for libraries to be able to purchase ebooks, rather than paying repeatedly for licensing fees, said Wu. Also, a library that digitizes its collection ensures access in an emergency, such as a pandemic, and preservation in the case of a natural disaster, saving the government money in having to replace damaged materials.
To counter disinformation, the public needs reliable information—and libraries are at the center of this battle, said SPARC’s Joseph.
“We can’t amplify content that we can’t access. And that’s really at the root of what libraries do for society,” Joseph said. “We’ve always been the equalizer in providing access to this high-quality information.” Rather than libraries being a trusted and critical distribution channel, they are being treated by publishers as adversaries, which Joseph said is a dangerous trend.
The discussion touched on a variety of remedies including legislative protections to enshrine practices like CDL, antitrust regulations, and building market competition. The work of Library Futures was highlighted as an avenue for concerned citizens to raise their voices and panelists underscored the need for action that reflects the best interest of the public.
“This is not just an inconvenience, it’s not just an additional expense to us as consumers. It’s creating an enormous divide in who can access critical knowledge,” Joseph said of publishers’ actions to restrict access to digital content. “The right to access knowledge is a human right. And a world in which one player—or worse a company—decides who’s in and who’s out is unacceptable.”
In her 20-year career in the tech industry, VM (Vicky) Brasseur has championed the use of free and open source software (FOSS). She hails it as good for businesses and the community, writing and presenting extensively about its merits.
To spread the word, Brasseur has made her book, Forge Your Future With Open Source, available for borrowing through the Internet Archive. She’s also saved all of her blogs, articles, talks and slides in the Wayback Machine for preservation and access to anyone.
“I do it to share the knowledge,” Brasseur said. “Uploading the resources to Internet Archive ensures that more people will be able to see it and will be able to see it forever.”
As soon as her book was published by The Pragmatic Programmers in 2018, Brasseur said she wanted to have it represented in the Internet Archive. She donated a copy so it could be available through Controlled Digital Lending (CDL).
“I think CDL is great. I love libraries,” Brasseur said. “To me, I don’t see how CDL is any different from walking into my local branch of the public library, picking up one of the copies that they have, going up to the circ desk, and taking it home. How is that different from the Internet Archive? They have one copy of my book and check it out one copy at a time. It just happens to be an e-book version. I, frankly, don’t see the material difference.”
A supporter of the Internet Archive since its inception, Brasseur says she’s a regular user of the Wayback Machine. It’s been useful for her to be able to do research and for others to find her body of work. Recently, she revamped her blog and removed some pages—later getting a request from someone who wanted some of the deleted material. Brasseur provided a Wayback Machine link to where she’d stored them, making it easy for that person to find the missing pages. “It’s a gift. It’s legitimately useful,” she said. “Having the Wayback means that other people can still have access” to materials she no longer has on her website.
Brasseur has led software development departments and teams, providing technical management and strategic consulting for businesses, and helping companies understand and implement FOSS. She wrote her book not just for programmers, but rather says it’s intended to be inclusive and for anyone interested in FOSS including technical writers, designers, project managers, those involved in security issues, and all other roles in the software development process.
In the book, she helps walk readers through why they might want to contribute to FOSS and how to best embrace the practices involved. The book was been positively received and was #1 on the BookAuthority list of 18 Best New Software Development Books To Read In 2018. Recently, it has been picked up by people transitioning to telecommuting and looking for resources for doing collaborative work.
“Obviously, I do want people to buy the book, but I’m also strongly pro library, as most intelligent publishers are. My publisher is a big fan of making sure that their books are available in libraries,” Brasseur said. “So the Internet Archive is a library that anyone can access all over the world. And it just makes it a lot easier to make sure that the book gets in the hands of people.”
Brasseur is committed to helping people contribute to open source; for people who can’t afford to buy the book, checking it out from the library is an alternative. “If they can get a copy from Internet Archive, then they can learn how to contribute and they can make a difference from wherever they are in the world. Nigeria, Thailand, Netherlands, or Montana. You don’t have to worry if your local library has it,” she said. “In these times, in particular, it’s very difficult to get to your library. This is a great service that the Internet Archive is providing.”
Forge Your Future with Open Source by VM Brasseur is available for purchase through a variety of retailers and local book stores.
Leaders at the Milton Public Library (MPL) in Canada say they are continually questioning their operations and looking for ways to better serve their patrons. That’s why the Ontario institution joined the Internet Archive’s Open Libraries program.
“We are always keen to innovate, in meaningful ways” said Mark Williams, MPL chief executive officer and chief librarian. “Why would we not want to be in this partnership that expands our collection, but also extends assets to other people’s collections in a digital realm? It was a no brainer.”
In making its decision to become part of Open Libraries in September 2019, Williams said rather than being concerned about publishers, the focus was on the interests of the public.
“If it challenges the status quo for the benefit of readers, wherever those readers are, then I think we should engage,” Williams said.
As it happens, the timing of its membership was fortuitous. With COVID-19 disrupting access to the print collection at its branches, being part of the Open Libraries meant broader access to digital materials for patrons quarantined at home.
MPL has been a central part of the Milton, Ontario, community since 1855, serving a population of more than 120,000 through three physical libraries and its website (and with a bookmobile and four new branches in the pipelines over the course of the next 10 years), Library services were forced to be flexible in the past year as health circumstances changed in the province.
The three MPL locations closed on March 17, 2020, under a state of emergency in Ontario. By May, a phased reopening allowed libraries to begin limited operations. During the state of emergency, librarians pivoted to providing access to services only through virtual interactions and the website was changed to focus on promoting electronic resources. As restrictions eased, MPL provided curbside, contactless pickup. Eventually, 50 to 100 patrons were allowed inside the buildings with safety protocols. The libraries had to close again when COVID-19 cases spiked in the winter, and then reopened in February.
“The staff have been remarkably agile and good at adapting their approach,” Williams said. “We’ve done the best we possibly could to ensure the public library services continued, but the way we deliver it is different than anyone would have expected.”
In addition to joining Open Libraries, MPL donated 30,000 books to the Internet Archive. Williams said the expanded access to content in the larger online library has been a boon to the public. Regardless of the pandemic, MPL would have spread the word about access to Open Libraries, he said, but it was likely accelerated because there was no choice but to focus on digital offerings in the pandemic.
“The lockdown highlighted the ability for us to raise awareness about the partnership and introduce it to more patrons,” Williams said. MPL is creating a new portal on its website that will be dedicated to Open Libraries but has been promoting its availability in the meantime and the response has been positive.
“We’ve seen overwhelming demand,” Williams said. “Patrons think it’s a fantastic option for them to have increased materials than we currently have available.”
The transition to becoming part of the Open Libraries program was seamless, said Williams, and he’s encouraging other libraries to consider joining.
“I hope if other libraries sign up, they will be equally inspired by the partnership. The content is amazing,” Williams said. “Our patrons think it’s phenomenal. Our board thinks it’s a great idea, philosophically. Everyone believes this is an important service addition.”
Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) is growing in popularity, as is the community of practice around the library lending model. Next week, join Chris Freeland, director of Open Libraries at the Internet Archive, for a one-hour session covering new developments in CDL. Attendees will learn how libraries are using CDL, the emerging community around CDL, and the impacts of the library practice.
Register now Registration for the virtual event is free and open to the public. The live session is being offered twice for your scheduling flexibility; if you’d like to join, you only need to register for one session:
Academics, legal experts, and authors explained the thoughtful reasoning and compelling need for libraries to engage in Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) at a webinar hosted by the Internet Archive and Library Futures on February 11. A recording of the session is now available.
The panel dispelled myths about CDL, the digital lending model in which a library lends a digital version of a print book it owns. Emphasizing the limited and controlled aspect of the practice, the speakers said CDL allows libraries to fulfill their mission of serving the public in the digital age. The global pandemic only underscores the importance of providing flexibility in how people can access information.
Isn’t CDL digital piracy? No, CDL is not like Napster, said Kyle K. Courtney, copyright advisor at Harvard University, referring to the music file-sharing service. Twenty years ago, the actions of Napster were ruled illegal because it made unlimited reproductions of MP3 music to anyone, anywhere.
“CDL uses technology to replicate a library’s right to loan works in a digital format—one user at a time,” Courntey said. Libraries are using rights they already have, leveraging the same technology as publishers to make sure that the books are controlled when they’re loaned—not duplicated, copied or redistributed.
“Libraries are not pirates. There is a vast difference between the Napster mission and the library mission,” Courtney said. “We can loan books to patrons. Only now we’re harnessing that right in the digital space.”
In laying out the rationale behind CDL, Courtney described the “superpower” granted to libraries by Congress through copyright law to serve the public. The “fair use” section of the law allows libraries to responsibly lend materials, and experts say logically includes both print and digital works.
The idea of “fair use” has been around as long as there has been copyright, and it applies to new technologies, said Michelle Wu, attorney and law librarian at the webinar. The Internet Archive did not invent CDL. Wu is the visionary behind CDL, developing the concept in 2002 as a way to protect a library’s print collection from natural disaster—an imperative she faced in rebuilding a library destroyed by flooding.
Just as libraries lend out entire books, fair use allows the scanning of whole books, said panelist Sandra Aya Enimil, copyright librarian and contract specialist at Yale University. The law makes no mention of the amount of material that can be made available under “fair use,” so for libraries to fulfill their purpose they can make complete books—whether in print or digital—available to patrons, she said.
It’s a myth that librarians need author and publisher permission for CDL, explained Jill Hurst-Wahl, copyright scholar and professor emerita in Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies. “Authors and publisher control ends at the time a book is published, then fair use begins,” she said. “Once a work is legally acquired by you, by a library, the copyright owners’ rights are exhausted.”
Library lending is viewed as fair use, in part, because it is focused on socially beneficial, non-commercial outcomes, like literacy, said Hurst-Wahl. Also, libraries loan physical books without concern about the market effect—so the same rules apply if a digital version of the book is substituted.
CDL does not harm authors or publisher sales, the panelists emphasized. Indeed, it can provide welcome exposure.
“The reality is that CDL can help authors by enhancing discoverability, availability and accessibility of their works,” said Brianna Schofield, executive director of Authors Alliance, speaking at the event. “It helps authors to spread their ideas, and it helps authors to build their audiences.”
Many of the books that are circulated by CDL are rare, out-of-print books that would otherwise be unavailable. This source material can be useful for writers as they develop their creative works.
“Digital and physical libraries contribute to a healthy publishing ecosystem and increase sales and engagement for creative works,” said Jennie Rose Halpin, executive director of Library Futures, a newly formed nonprofit coalition advocating for libraries to operate in the digital space. Research shows that leveraged digitization increases sales of physical additions by about 34% and increases the likelihood of any sale by 92%, particularly for less popular and out-of-print works.
Because digitized versions can be made more readily available, CDL can extend access to library collections to people with print disabilities or mobility issues, the panelists noted. CDL also allows libraries to preserve material in safe, digital formats with the best interest of the public—not profits—at the center of its work.
“People love books and will buy if they’re able. But we have to remember that paper books and even some ebooks do not serve the needs of all readers,” said Andrea Mills, digitization program manager at the Internet Archive and lead on the Archive’s accessibility efforts. “Accessibility is a human right that must be vigilantly protected.”
For anyone interested in learning more about how to get involved with CDL, the Internet Archive now has 2 million books available to borrow for free, and an active program for libraries that want to make their collections available through CDL.
“The CDL community of practice is thriving,” said Chris Freeland, director of Open Libraries at the Internet Archive. “We are in a pandemic. Libraries are closed. Schools are closed. CDL just makes sense and solves problems of access.”
The glass rises and falls. Quickly and efficiently, a woman turns the pages to the rhythmic beep of the cameras. She never misses a beat.
In its first 48 hours, this tweet about book scanning at the Internet Archive went viral, reaching 7.7 million people. More than 1.5 million people viewed the video, liking it 70,000 times and retweeting it 24,000 more. At the center of it all sits Eliza Zhang, a book scanner at the Internet Archive’s headquarters in San Francisco since 2010. When I asked Eliza what she likes about her job, she replied, “Everything! I find everything interesting. I don’t feel it is boring. Every collection is important to me.”
Eliza, a college graduate from southern China, immigrated to the United States in 2009, seeking a new life and new opportunities. She landed in San Francisco during the midst of an economy-crushing recession. But through a city program called JobsNOW, the Internet Archive hired Eliza and scores of other job seekers, training them to digitize, quality control, and upload metadata for books, newspapers, periodicals and manuals. Often our digitizing staff are making these analog texts available online for the first time.
Raising the glass with a foot pedal, adjusting the two cameras, and shooting the page images are just the beginning of Eliza’s work. Some books, like the Bureau of Land Management publication featured in the video, have myriad fold-outs. Eliza must insert a slip of paper to remind her to go back and shoot each fold-out page, while at the same time inputting the page numbers into the item record. The job requires keen concentration.
If this experienced digitizer accidentally skips a page, or if an image is blurry, the publishing software created by our engineers will send her a message to return to the Scribe and scan it again.
Listening to 70s and 80s R & B while she works, Eliza spends a little time each day reading the dozens of books she handles. The most challenging part of her job? “Working with very old, fragile books. The paper is very thin. I always wear rubber fingertips and sometimes gloves when I scan newspapers, because of the ink,” she explained.
Tweets Spark a New Interest in Digitization
Eliza is one of about 70 Scribe operators at the Internet Archive, working in digitization centers embedded in libraries across the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada. The operations are led by Elizabeth MacLeod, who manages our remote operations, and Andrea Mills, who is stationed at the University of Toronto, with support from managers and operators in each center.
“We try to meet libraries where they are,” said MacLeod, who manages remote operations from her home office in North Carolina. “From digitizing a few shipments a year at one of our regional centers to setting up and staffing full-service digitization within the library itself, we have a flexible approach to our library partnerships.”
Across Twitter, another common question arose: “Why hasn’t this job been automated?” To many, the repetitive act of turning the pages in a book and photographing them seems like the natural task for a robot. In fact, some 20 years ago, we tested commercial book scanners that feature a vacuum-powered page-turning arm. It turns out those automated scanners didn’t really work well for brittle books, rare volumes, and other special collections—the kinds of material our library partners ask us to digitize.
“Clean, dry human hands are the best way to turn pages,” said Mills, from her socially-distanced office at the University of Toronto. In her 15 years on the job, she has worked with hundreds of librarians to hone our digitization operations, balancing our need to preserve the original pages with minimal impact during the imaging process. “Our goal is to handle the book once and to care for the original as we work with it,” Mills explained.
So what does it take to be a Scribe operator? “It takes a level of zen,” wrote Brewster Kahle, founder and digital librarian of the Internet Archive, responding to one of the many threads about the video that popped up on Reddit. “It takes concentration and a love of books. For those who love working with books and libraries, it fits well.”
As for the hardware used for digitization, like much at the Internet Archive, the equipment is engineered and purpose-built for the job. In the viral video, Eliza is operating the original Scribe machine, designed more than 15 years ago, and Scribe software that was developed in-house and refined continuously over years of operation. “The variation in books makes [automation] difficult to do quickly and without damage,” Kahle elaborates. “We do not disbind the books, which also makes automation more difficult.”
18,000 Books and Climbing
In the decade Eliza has been working with the Internet Archive, she has scanned more than 3 million pages, 14,000 foldouts, and 18,000 items (mostly books).
And what about all the sudden social media attention? Eliza shrugs. She’s never been on Twitter before. “My goal is to guarantee zero errors,” she said. “I want to give our readers a satisfying experience.”
Digitize With Us
The Covid-19 pandemic has both created higher demand for digital content as well as shuttered some of our scanning centers for health and safety. We have reopened following local and national health guidelines and continue to engage with new libraries on their digitization projects.
The Internet Archive has reached a new milestone: 2 million. That’s how many modern books are now in its lending collection—available free to the public to borrow at any time, even from home.
“We are going strong,” said Chris Freeland, a librarian at the Internet Archive and director of the Open Libraries program. “We are making books available that people need access to online, and our patrons are really invested. We are doing a library’s work in the digital era.”
The lending collection is an encyclopedic mix of purchased books, ebooks, and donations from individuals, organizations, and institutions. It has been curated by Freeland and other librarians at the Internet Archive according to a prioritized wish list that has guided collection development. The collection has been purpose-built to reach a wide base of both public and academic library patrons, and to contain books that people want to read and access online—titles that are widely held by libraries, cited in Wikipedia and frequently assigned on syllabi and course reading lists.
“The Internet Archive is trying to achieve a collection reflective of great research and public libraries like the Boston Public Library,” said Brewster Kahle, digital librarian and founder of the Internet Archive, who began building the diverse library more than 20 years ago.
“Libraries from around the world have been contributing books so that we can make sure the digital generation has access to the best knowledge ever written,” Kahle said. “These wide ranging collections include books curated by educators, librarians and individuals, that they see are critical to educating an informed populace at a time of massive disinformation and misinformation.”
Everyday about 3,500 books are digitized in one of 18 digitization centers operated by the Archive worldwide. While there’s no exact way of identifying a singular 2 millionth book, the Internet Archive has chosen a representative title that helped push past the benchmark to highlight why its collection is so useful to readers and researchers online.
On December 31, The dictionary of costume by R. Turner Wilcox was scanned and added to the Archive, putting the collection over the 2 million mark. The book was first published in 1969 and reprinted throughout the 1990s, but is now no longer in print or widely held by libraries. This particular book was donated to Better World Books via a book bank just outside of London in August 2020, then made its way to the Internet Archive for preservation and digitization.
As expected from the title, the book is a dictionary of terms associated with costumes, textiles and fashion, and was compiled by an expert, Wilcox, the fashion editor of Women’s Wear Daily from 1910 to 1915. Given its authoritative content, the book made it onto the Archive’s wish list because it is frequently cited in Wikipedia, including on pages like Petticoat and Gown.
Now that the book has been digitized, Wikipedia editors can update citations to the book and include a direct link to the cited page. For example, users reading the Petticoat page can see that page 267 of the book has been used to substantiate the claim that both men & women wore a longer underskirt called a “petticote” in the fourteenth century. Clicking on that reference will take users directly to page 267 in The dictionary of costume where they can read the dictionary entry for petticoat and verify that information for themselves.
An additional reason why this work is important is that there is no commercial ebook available for The dictionary of costume. This book is one of the millions of titles that reached the end of its publishing lifecycle in the 20th century, so there is no electronic version available for purchase. That means that the only way of accessing this book online and verifying these citations in Wikipedia—doing the kind of research that students of all ages perform in our connected world—is through a scanned copy, such as the one now available at the Internet Archive.
Donations play an important role
Increasingly, the Archive is preserving many books that would otherwise be lost to history or the trash bin.
In recent years, the Internet Archive has received donations of entire library collections. Marygrove College gave more than 70,000 books and nearly 3,000 journal volumes for digitization and preservation in 2019 after the small liberal arts college in Detroit closed. The well-curated collection, known for its social justice, education and humanities holdings, is now available online at https://archive.org/details/marygrovecollege.
Just like The dictionary of costume, many of the books supplied for digitization come to the Archive from Better World Books. In its partnership over the past 10 years, the online book seller has donated millions of books to be digitized and preserved by the Archive. Better World Books acquires books from thousands of libraries, book suppliers, and through a network of book donation drop boxes (known as “book banks” in the UK), and if a title is not suitable for resale and it’s on the Archive’s wish list, the book is set aside for donation.
“We view our role as helping maximize the life cycle and value of each and every single book that a library client, book supplier or donor entrusts to us,” said Dustin Holland, president and chief executive officer of Better World Books. “We make every effort to make books available to readers and keep books in the reading cycle and out of the recycle stream. Our partnership with the Internet Archive makes all this possible.”
The Archive provides another channel for customers to find materials, Holland added.
“We view archive.org as a way of discovering and accessing books,” said Holland. “Once a book is discoverable, the more interest you are going to create in that book and the greater the chance it will end up in a reader’s hands as a new or gently used book.”
Having books freely available for borrowing online serves people with a variety of needs including those with limited access to libraries because of disabilities, transportation issues, people in rural areas, and those who live in under-resourced parts of the world.
Sean, an author in Oregon said he goes through older magazines for design ideas, especially from cultures that he wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise: “It gives me a wider understanding of my small place in the global historical context.” One parent from San Francisco said she uses the lending library to learn skills like hand drawing to draw characters and landscapes to interact deeper with her child.
The need for information is more urgent than ever.
“We are all homeschoolers now. This pandemic has driven home how important it is to have online access to quality information,” Kahle said. “It’s gratifying to hear from teachers and parents that are now given the tools to work with their children during this difficult time.”
Kahle’s vision is to have every reference in Wikipedia be linked to a book and for every student writing a high school report to have access to the best published research on their subject. He wants the next generation to become authors of the books that should be in the library and the most informed electorate possible.
Adds Kahle: “Thank you to all who have made this possible – all the funders, all the donors, the thousands who have sent books to be digitized. If we all work together, we can do another million this year.”
Many students do not have direct or unrestricted access to their local libraries during our current health crisis. One of our goals as librarians and stewards is to bring books to these learners of all ages as they continue their educations at home.
As a step toward this, we have created a collection of California State Suggested Reading that is based on resources from the California Department of Education. This is intended to help students, teachers and their families find books for further learning. (As with any collection, we recommend that adults review items for age-appropriateness before passing them on to children.)
And we’ve also created some resource lists for different areas of interests in the Kid Friendly section of our help center. These are fun to explore by yourself, in company or over the internet with friends, and cover topics like :
For nearly 100 years, the Marygrove College library was the hub of activity on campus. The small, liberal arts college in Detroit didn’t have a student union, so the library served as the heartbeat of campus, offering students a place to study, learn and socialize.
“The Marygrove library was very unique. It was a place where students came for help and to see their classmates,” says Laura Manley, a librarian from 2005-2015. “If they didn’t understand something about an assignment, they would find out from others and network in the library.”
As enrollment dropped and financial pressures mounted, the college closed in December 2019. The fate of the library collection was uncertain. Administrators explored avenues to sell or dispose of the books but decided instead to donate the entire collection to the Internet Archive. More than 70,000 volumes were boxed up and then scanned into a digital format. The physical copies were put into storage and the Archive makes one digital version of each item available for free check out through its Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) program.
Rather than shut its doors permanently, the library has a new home online. The Internet Archive celebrated the reopening of the Marygrove College Library last October, offering a way for the heart of the Marygrove campus to keep beating.
“I was thrilled with the idea that the collection went as a body and could live on,” says Jennifer Meacham, who worked at the library for 15 years. “The library had a long history of expanding to meet the growing needs of the student body as it changed.”
Marygrove began as a Catholic women’s college, eventually becoming co-ed and predominantly African American, reflecting the demographics of the surrounding community. Professors emphasized not just learning in the classroom, but the importance of making the world a better place, says Meacham. That translated into a need for materials on social justice issues. And because librarians worked closely with students, they were able to learn about their specific research projects and purchase materials tailored to their interests.
As Meacham curated the children’s book collection at Marygrove, she intentionally bought books with black and brown characters covering issues that were relatable to students who teachers graduating from the college would have in class. Once the collection was made available online, Meacham says she eagerly browsed through the diverse collection and was pleased to know it is now freely available to anyone.
Jeffrey Zachwieja was hired in 1996 as a reference and instruction librarian as Marygrove was beginning to move from card catalogues to an automated system with electronic databases. “We wanted to preserve the past, but move to the future,” says Zachwieja, who built the library’s first website. Care was taken to keep the collection current while keeping books that reflected the deep history of various fields of study at the college, including education and religion.
The library became a go-to spot for technology, providing many students with their only access to the internet or a computer. Librarians provided individual support to students as they navigated new platforms and software programs.
Students needing help at the library reflected the span of the student body from undergraduates who had come through the Detroit Public Schools to graduate students in their 30s and 40s. Manley says it was fulfilling to work with the students one-on-one, especially those who had limited technology experience and relied heavily on the library.
Meacham says the library tried to provide a range of services in all things related to information. Librarians recommended materials for research papers, direction on bibliographies, feedback to make sure students weren’t plagiarizing, and an audience to practice a presentation. “The library was seen as a human resource,” she says. “We had a very good reputation and would bend over backwards for students and faculty,” she says.
Manley says the experience at Marygrove changed how she viewed access to education.
“I went from thinking when I first started my career that people should succeed by merit. But what I witnessed is there were all kinds of bright students who should have knowledge readily available. But they had to struggle because of reasons that were no fault of their own,” says Manley. “Whether they didn’t have a solid enough K-12 or it was socioeconomics, not everyone starts at the same playing field. Sometimes you have to bring someone up to speed to be able to fly. They are just as worthy and have just as much potential.”
Librarians at Marygrove went beyond their traditional role to help support students. “Our goal was to help students succeed. Once they had a foundation, they could do anything,” Manley says.