This week, a federal judge issued this scheduling order, laying out the road map that may lead to a jury trial in the copyright lawsuit brought by four of the world’s largest publishers against the Internet Archive. Judge John G. Koeltl has ordered all parties to be ready for trial by November 12, 2021. He set a deadline of December 1, 2020, to notify the court if the parties are willing to enter settlement talks with a magistrate judge.
Attorneys for the Internet Archive have met with representatives for the publishers, but were unable to reach an agreement. “We had hoped to settle this needless lawsuit,” said Brewster Kahle, Internet Archive’s founder and Digital Librarian. “Right now the publishers are diverting attention and resources from where they should be focused: on helping students during this pandemic.”
The scheduling order lays out this timeline:
Discovery must be completed by September 20, 2021;
Dispositive motions must be submitted by October 8, 2021;
Pretrial orders/motions must be submitted by October 29, 2021;
Parties must be ready for trial on 48 hours notice by November 12, 2021.
In June, Hachette Book Group, Inc., HarperCollins Publishers LLC, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and Penguin Random House LLC—with coordination by the Association of American Publishers—filed a lawsuit to stop the Internet Archive from digitizing and lending books to the public, demanding that the non-profit library destroy 1.5 million digital books.
Publishers Weekly Senior Writer Andrew Albanese has been covering the story from the beginning. In a July 31st Beyond the Book podcast for the Copyright Clearance Center, Albanese shared his candid opinions about the lawsuit. “If this was to be a blow out, open-and-shut case for the publishers, what do the publishers and authors get?” Albanese asked. “I’d say nothing.”
“Honestly, a win in court on this issue will not mean more sales for books for publishers. Nor will it protect any authors or publisher from the vagaries of the Internet,” the Publishers Weekly journalist continued. “Here we are in the streaming age, 13 years after the ebook market took off, and we’re having a copyright battle, a court battle over crappy PDFs of mostly out-of-print books? I just don’t think it’s a good look for the industry.”
In order to make the vast majority of 20th Century books accessible to digital learners, libraries such as the Internet Archive have been digitizing the physical books they own and lending them on a 1-to-1 “own to loan” basis—a legal framework called Controlled Digital Lending. Publishers refuse to sell ebooks to libraries, insisting on temporary licenses on restrictive terms. This business practice “threatens the purpose, values, and mission of libraries and archives in the United States,” explains Kyle K. Courtney, copyright advisor to Harvard University Libraries. “It undermines the ability of the public (taxpayers!) to access the materials purchased with their money for their use in public libraries and state institutions, and further, it is short sighted, and not in the best interest of library patrons or the public at large.”
“Libraries have always had the right to buy and lend books. It’s at the core of a library’s mission,” said Kahle. “The Internet Archive would like to purchase ebooks, but the publishers won’t sell them to us, or to any library. Instead they are suing us to stop all learners from accessing the millions of digitized books in our library.”
On July 22, 2020, Kyle K. Courtney, Copyright Advisor at Harvard University, spoke at a press conference about the copyright lawsuit against the Internet Archive brought by the publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House.He holds a J.D. with distinction in Intellectual Property Law and a Master of Science in Library and Information Science (MSLIS) degree. Courtney is a published author and nationally recognized speaker on the topics of copyright, technology, libraries, and the law.These are his remarks:
Part of my work in scholarship is about the roles of copyright and the library landscape. I wrote the white paper on Controlled Digital Lending of library books with my coauthor David Hansen at Duke University Libraries. And it presents the legal rationale supporting the overview document called the Position Statement on Controlled Digital Lending, which has been endorsed by many national library organizations, regional library consortia, specific library systems, themselves, individual librarians, and legal experts. Ultimately, though, this is about how libraries can do what they’ve always done, right? Lend books. The paper looks at the underpinnings of the library’s historical mission through the lens of both fair use and first sale, true critical rights that I think any library uses in their programs, right? Both for lending and preservation. And I discuss how libraries can legally lend digital copies of their print collections using this technology.
But I’d like to point out that a CDL system is not a brand new concept, like Corynne stated: libraries loan books to the public. It’s what they do, for centuries. And libraries do not need permission or a license to loan those books that they have purchased or acquired. Copyright law covers those exact issues. But the difference here, I think, and some of the conflict is that the vendors and publishers have to ask permission, right? They must license. This is their business model. Historically, libraries are special creatures of copyright law; libraries have a legally authorized mandate, by the way, granted by Congress, to complete their mission to provide both access to materials. Congress actually placed all of these specialized copyright exemptions for libraries in the Copyright Act itself. So that’s kind of fun to look at library’s unique role in copyright law, they sit right in the middle, both housing the economic purpose of copyright: “we buy the books, we buy lots of books,” and the access purpose of copyright, which is, “we loan the books out to our users.”
Or if you want to put that in the constitutional narrative: libraries are promoting the progress of science and the useful arts. Libraries have historically provided unfettered access and freedom to the books that they purchase for their communities. Now, because of that, there’s multiple versions of CDL-like systems that are currently used in libraries. But I think the origin of the real legal underpinning concept was first explored by Professor Michelle Wu at Georgetown University School of Law in an article that she wrote that I read many times, “Building a Collaborative Digital Collection.” Later, the Internet Archive formed up the Open Library Program, which Chris talked about, which was nine years ago. And other institutions are exploring this option right in their own individual libraries or part of consortia or within affinity groups.
It’s exciting to see, but at its core, Controlled Digital Lending is about replicating, through the Controlled Digital Lending Process, the legal and economically significant aspects of physical lending. And in other words, let’s put this simply: it continues to preserve the powers in the print. A library has these significant legal usage rights and they have great fiscal value in their collections. Some public library systems have spent millions upon millions of dollars to make their collections accessible to the community. And I believe the CDL structure preserves that value by enhancing access of these works to the public through technology. And as Chris pointed out, it’s the same technology that’s used by publishers to distribute in the commercial marketplace.
Again, this may be about the fear of technology, certainly, but technology should be used to enhance access to materials and do what libraries have always done: increasing access to knowledge by loaning the materials to the public. Just because we’re using technology does not mean that suddenly these acts are new. And in fact, libraries have special authority to provide both access longterm to information and preserve these materials for much longer than the business model of any particular corporation, company, or vendor.
And this is especially true with the 20th Century works that are in libraries, right? They have not been available in the digital world across the board. They call this “The 20th Century Black Hole.” Many 20th Century books are not available for purchase as new copies or in print or digital versions online. And I don’t know if your students are like mine or anyone else or patrons: if it’s not digital, it’s almost like it doesn’t exist. Libraries would like to provide digital access, but we can’t, because these are not available in a licensed format or in a digital format that’s available to loan, but we have them on our shelves.
So as many of our student patrons say, “We want access to these works,” and these could be long lost print works, by the way, that are really not lost; they’re on the shelves of our libraries, just trapped there, and in COVID maybe trapped there for a longer time than anticipated. So imagine the potentially enormous high social and scholarly value and relatively low risk if we make these works available to the public for reading, quoting, citing, adaption, using Wikipedia articles. So that’s kind of the exciting aspect of it. I’m not going to get into great detail, but our principle argument in this paper, which summarizes all these points, is that Controlled Digital Lending is a fair use, which is an equitable rule of reason, that permits libraries to do what they’ve always done. And under the First Sale Doctrine, loan those books to users. Thanks a lot for your time.
On July 22, 2020, Chris Freeland, Director of Open Libraries at the Internet Archive, spoke at a press conference about the copyright lawsuit brought by the publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House against our non-profit digital library.These are his remarks:
I’m Chris Freeland, I’m a librarian at the Internet Archive and I’m the Director of the Open Libraries Program at the Internet Archive. I’ve been at the Internet Archive for more than two and a half years. Before joining the Archive, I was an associate university librarian at Washington University in St. Louis, and then before that I was the Technical Director of a project called the Biodiversity Heritage Library. And so for more than 15 years, I’ve worked in partnership with the Internet Archive to digitize books and make them as widely available as possible through technology and through copyright.
In that same amount of time, that’s when the Internet Archive was partnering with those one thousand libraries that Brewster just mentioned to digitize nearly four million books. So most of those books, when we were partnering with libraries, most of those books were in the public domain, and that means that those were easily published online. They didn’t need restrictions for use. They didn’t need any kind of controls. But at the Internet Archive, we think that everyone deserves to learn. So our goal is to build a research library with more than four million modern books that we can make available to users all over the world.
Now you may be asking why four million? Four million books is the size of a large metropolitan public library. It’s about the same size as a Chicago Public Library or a San Francisco Public Library. And we think that everyone, regardless of where they live, should have equal and equitable access to a comprehensive library. And so to date, we’ve digitized nearly 1.5 million books on the way towards that four million book goal.
So the way that we lend books to our patrons is through Controlled Digital Lending. So Controlled Digital Lending is a legal practice that makes works accessible that are still in copyright. We started working with Controlled Digital Lending with the Boston Public Library, on a pilot that we called at that time “digitize and lend” those books that were in copyright. Now, nine years later, hundreds of other libraries of all sizes in the US and Canada are also participating in Controlled Digital Lending and they’ve embraced the model.
So here’s the way the Controlled Digital Lending works. We only loan as many copies as we and our library partners own, and those checkouts have time limits and the files are protected by the same digital rights management software that publishers use. It’s not a free-for-all. It’s controlled, that’s the “control” in Controlled Digital Lending. So Controlled Digital Lending helps us make information available, which is incredibly important from my perspective as a librarian. It’s a necessary way to increase equity in our education system, and it’s part of the mission of libraries.
In addition to digitizing, we’re also helping libraries and institutions preserve their collections and to keep them safe and accessible. So let me give you a little example, a story from last year. Marygrove College closed last year, and a central concern for the school’s president, Dr. Elizabeth Burns, and for the Board of Trustees is what do we do with the library? Those 70,000 volumes that are in that library that were in the school that was closing. So after hearing about the Internet Archive’s Controlled Digital Lending program, the college decided to donate the entire library to us for digitization and for preservation, so that the legacy of the college would live on. And so that those books would be available for future scholars.
So in closing my little portion here, I want to leave you with an impact story of why Controlled Digital Lending matters. So we’ve received hundreds of testimonials and published two blog posts that are full of statements from users who have used our lending library while their own libraries and their schools were closed. And one such statement really helped underscore that impact of CDL. And it comes to us from Benjamin Saracco, who is a librarian at a medical center in New Jersey. And Benjamin wrote to us, and to let us know that he was able to find basic life support manuals that were needed by the frontline workers at the medical center where he worked. He needed those and he had to use our library because his physical collection was closed due to COVID-19. It may sound impossible to think, but it’s true. Lives were saved because of Controlled Digital Lending. That is impactful.
This is the third part in a series of testimonials from patrons who used the National Emergency Library and continue to use controlled digital lending to borrow books from our library (you can read the previous posts here and here). If you’d like to share your story of how you used the NEL while it was open, or how you are still using our lending library today, please leave a testimonial.
The following statements are condensed from testimonials sent to the Internet Archive:
Andrea N., Freehold, New Jersey, Reader: “I used the National Emergency Library for personal reading through the pandemic. I am a high-risk person for [COVID-19], so I have been very limited for the last three months. I am also disabled and cannot easily visit the library even when it is open to check out books. I’ve relied on the Internet Archive for many years to find things to read to help me occupy my time when I can’t do much of anything else but read. It was nice to have a wide selection of books to read during this time.”
Mirrah, Sunderland, Massachusetts, Student: Mirrah writes that the National Emergency Library and controlled digital lending “allowed me to move ahead with my studies instead of getting stumped and trying to resort to irrelevant materials. Without Internet Archive, even my university’s library (that I’m paying tuition to access) is severely stunted in its online form.” Mirrah also encourages us to consider accessibility, writing, “I think people really underestimate the importance of accessibility in educational materials. It’s very difficult to understand the impact something you don’t have access to *could* have. Much easier to take for granted the things we already have access to, thinking it is so for everyone.”
Tom C., Omaha, Nebraska, Researcher: For Tom, the National Emergency Library was a source of entertainment. “It kept the isolation of a retiree by himself bearable, even fun sometimes. Keep on making obscure books available!”
Cindy Y., Toccoa, Georgia, Reader: Cindy used the National Emergency Library “as a replacement for Stephens County Public Library. It still has limited hours it is open.” As someone who reads for enjoyment, Cindy writes that the NEL “was a refreshing way to spend endless days at home. The entertainment was fabulous and an essential part of my life. From a young girl I enjoyed reading books like Trixie Belden mysteries to Pippi Longstocking adventures. I believe reading is essential to life. Remember the pack horse librarians and their service? Digital is ours. NEL is the pack horse librarian.” Editorial note: Learn more about the Pack Horse Library Project
Tori K., Oxnard, California, Reader: “I read ancient history and religion books, which are not found in public libraries.” Tori is another reader that used the NEL for personal safety during quarantine and beyond. “The ability to read in the safety of my home is priceless because I have an autoimmune disease.”
Suvadip S., Durgapur, India, Researcher: Suvadip used the National Emergency Library to access materials that weren’t available to him in India. “I live in a small city in India. I couldn’t have afforded these books. Neither do we have such library facilities. It was like a boon for me in such difficult times. Please initiate NEL again during this difficult period.”
Karen T., Sacramento, California, Reader: Karen writes of the National Emergency Library, “It was a life saver. My local library, of which I am a regular patron, was closed and the selection of ebooks available online was limited. Being able to access the National Emergency Library made my stay at home more bearable.”
Yesterday, the Internet Archive filed our response to the lawsuit brought by four commercial publishers to end the practice of Controlled Digital Lending (CDL), the digital equivalent of traditional library lending. CDL is a respectful and secure way to bring the breadth of our library collections to digital learners. Commercial ebooks, while useful, only cover a small fraction of the books in our libraries. As we launch into a fall semester that is largely remote, we must offer our students the best information to learn from—collections that were purchased over centuries and are now being digitized. What is at stake with this lawsuit? Every digital learner’s access to library books. That is why the Internet Archive is standing up to defend the rights of hundreds of libraries that are using Controlled Digital Lending.
The publishers’ lawsuit aims to stop the longstanding and widespread library practice of Controlled Digital Lending, and stop the hundreds of libraries using this system from providing their patrons with digital books. Through CDL, libraries lend a digitized version of the physical books they have acquired as long as the physical copy doesn’t circulate and the digital files are protected from redistribution. This is how Internet Archive’s lending library works, and has for more than nine years. Publishers are seeking to shut this library down, claiming copyright law does not allow it. Our response is simple: Copyright law does not stand in the way of libraries’ rights to own books, to digitize their books, and to lend those books to patrons in a controlled way.
“The Authors Alliance has several thousand members around the world and we have endorsed the Controlled Digital Lending as a fair use,” stated Pamela Samuelson, Authors Alliance founder and Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law at Berkeley Law. “It’s really tragic that at this time of pandemic that the publishers would try to basically cut off even access to a digital public library like the Internet Archive…I think that the idea that lending a book is illegal is just wrong.”
These publishers clearly intend this lawsuit to have a chilling effect on Controlled Digital Lending at a moment in time when it can benefit digital learners the most. For students and educators, the 2020 fall semester will be unlike any other in recent history. From K-12 schools to universities, many institutions have already announced they will keep campuses closed or severely limit access to communal spaces and materials such as books because of public health concerns. The conversation we must be having is: how will those students, instructors and researchers access information — from textbooks to primary sources? Unfortunately, four of the world’s largest book publishers seem intent on undermining both libraries’ missions and our attempts to keep educational systems operational during a global health crisis.
The publishers’ lawsuit does not stop at seeking to end the practice of Controlled Digital Lending. These publishers call for the destruction of the 1.5 million digital books that Internet Archive makes available to our patrons. This form of digital book burning is unprecedented and unfairly disadvantages people with print disabilities. For the blind, ebooks are a lifeline, yet less than one in ten exists in accessible formats. Since 2010, Internet Archive has made our lending library available to the blind and print disabled community, in addition to sighted users. If the publishers are successful with their lawsuit, more than a million of those books would be deleted from the Internet’s digital shelves forever.
I call on the executives at Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House to come together with us to help solve the pressing challenges to access to knowledge during this pandemic. Please drop this needless lawsuit.
On July 22, 2020, Pamela Samuelson, Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law and Information at the University of California, Berkeley, spoke at a press conference about the copyright lawsuit against the Internet Archive brought by the publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House.These are her remarks:
Good afternoon. Very happy to be here with you today. The Authors Alliance has several thousand members around the world and we have endorsed the controlled digital lending as a fair use and I think that this is a lawsuit I hoped would never happen. Because controlled digital lending has been going on for such a long time, it’s really tragic that at this time of pandemic that the publishers would try to basically cut off even access to a digital public library like the Internet Archive is running.
I don’t know about your library, but my libraries in California are closed. I can’t get any books out of even the University of California Berkeley Library at this point, the whole campus is closed, and so while I haven’t been using the Open Library for my research purposes because they don’t have the books in it that I need, I do think that that it’s just a heartless, tragic thing that this lawsuit is really trying to stop a very positive thing that Internet Archive has been doing.
I’m one of the legal scholars who has endorsed the controlled digital lending statement. I think that even under some second circuit opinions, one can say that the Open Library has actually a utility-enhancing transformative use. It’s certainly nonprofit, it’s educational, and it promotes literacy and many, many positive things. I think that the idea that lending a book is illegal is just wrong.
I would actually like to point out that in Germany, where copyright laws are generally stronger than in the United States, that the Darmstadt Technical University was able to succeed in its non-infringement claim for digitizing a book, and here’s the important point: just because the publisher wanted to license an ebook to that library, the Court of Justice of the European Union said it’s not an infringement for the library to actually digitize one of its own books and make that book available to the public. So if that’s true in Germany, I think it should be true in the US as well.
About the speaker:
Pamela Samuelson is the Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law and Information at the University of California, Berkeley. She is recognized as a pioneer in digital copyright law, intellectual property, cyberlaw and information policy. Since 1996, she has held a joint appointment at Berkeley Law School and UC Berkeley’s School of Information. Samuelson is a director of the internationally-renowned Berkeley Center for Law & Technology. She is co-founder and chair of the board of Authors Alliance, a nonprofit organization that promotes the public interest in access to knowledge. She also serves on the board of directors of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as on the advisory boards for the Electronic Privacy Information Center , the Center for Democracy & Technology, Public Knowledge, and the Berkeley Center for New Media.
I wanted to share my thoughts in response to the lawsuit against the Internet Archive filed on June 1 by the publishers Hachette, Harpercollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House.
I founded the Internet Archive, a non-profit library, 24 years ago as we brought the world digital. As a library we collect and preserve books, music, video and webpages to make a great Internet library.
We have had the honor to partner with over 1,000 different libraries, such as the Library of Congress and the Boston Public Library, to accomplish this by scanning books and collecting webpages and more. In short, the Internet Archive does what libraries have always done: we buy, collect, preserve, and share our common culture.
But remember March of this year—we went home on a Friday and were told our schools were not reopening on Monday. We got cries for help from teachers and librarians who needed to teach without physical access to the books they had purchased.
Over 130 libraries endorsed lending books from our collections, and we used Controlled Digital Lending technology to do it in a controlled, respectful way. We lent books that we own—at the Internet Archive and also the other endorsing libraries. These books were purchased and we knew they were not circulating physically. They were all locked up. In total, 650 million books were locked up just in public libraries alone. Because of that, we felt we could, and should, and needed to make the digitized versions of those books available to students in a controlled way to help during a global emergency. As the emergency receded, we knew libraries could return to loaning physical books and the books would be withdrawn from digital circulation. It was a lending system that we could scale up immediately and then shut back down again by June 30th.
And then, on June 1st, we were sued by four publishers and they demanded we stop lending digitized books in general and then they also demanded we permanently destroy millions of digital books. Even though the temporary National Emergency Library was closed before June 30th, the planned end date, and we are back to traditional controlled digital lending, the publishers have not backed down.
Schools and libraries are now preparing for a “Digital Fall Semester” for students all over the world, and the publishers are still suing.
Please remember that what libraries do is Buy, Preserve, and Lend books.
Controlled Digital Lending is a respectful and balanced way to bring our print collections to digital learners. A physical book, once digital, is available to only one reader at a time. Going on for nine years and now practiced by hundreds of libraries, Controlled Digital Lending is a longstanding, widespread library practice.
What is at stake with this suit may sound insignificant—that it is just Controlled Digital Lending—but please remember– this is fundamental to what libraries do: buy, preserve, and lend.
With this suit, the publishers are saying that in the digital world, we cannot buy books anymore, we can only license and on their terms; we can only preserve in ways for which they have granted explicit permission, and for only as long as they grant permission; and we cannot lend what we have paid for because we do not own it. This is not a rule of law, this is the rule by license. This does not make sense.
We say that libraries have the right to buy books, preserve them, and lend them even in the digital world. This is particularly important with the books that we own physically, because learners now need them digitally.
This lawsuit is already having a chilling impact on the Digital Fall Semester we’re about to embark on. The stakes are high for so many students who will be forced to learn at home via the Internet or not learn at all.
Librarians, publishers, authors—all of us—should be working together during this pandemic to help teachers, parents and especially the students.
I call on the executives at Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House to come together with us to help solve the pressing challenges to access to knowledge during this pandemic.
Today, we answered an inquiry from Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) about our digital archiving and lending practices. Our response explains how important controlled digital lending is as a tool for schools and libraries as we all prepare for our digital fall semester. Communities around the country have urgent needs that are not being met by the ebook market. A generation of school children could be left behind if students do not have access to the learning materials they need, in the format they need. Controlled digital lending helps libraries to leverage the materials they have already purchased, within the library tradition and function, to meet the needs of learn-at-home students.
This year, the plans for K-12 and college campuses are changing by the day, but we know that most will have a fall semester take place at least partially online. And our communities need widespread and equitable access to instructional and research materials online.
Following our previous post, we have continued to receive messages about the impact of the National Emergency Library before it closed last week. If you’d like to share your story of how you used the NEL, please leave a testimonial.
The following statements are condensed from testimonials sent to the Internet Archive:
Betty A., Inkster, Michigan, Student: Betty writes that she “used the Internet Archive and the NEL for graduate course research, personal interests, and for assisting patrons. I am a graduate student as well as an Interlibrary Loan employee…and have found the NEL a necessary resource that has allowed my own personal research to progress during this time of crisis and as an option for searching materials that normally I’d have access to, if local and university libraries were open. The physical materials being unavailable have limited Interlibrary Loan success to strictly digital access. This has hindered many researchers and caused many loan requests that ordinarily would be fulfilled, to be cancelled.
The NEL has opened educational resources to those who had nowhere else to turn, had no way to gain access to the same materials that would otherwise be available if they had a library card, and allowed parents to assist their now home-schooled children in locating resources to complete their assignments by their required due dates. I personally cannot thank IA enough for the many ways the NEL has helped me and my constituents and community.”
Tiger J., Arlington, Texas, Researcher: Tiger used the NEL “to locate otherwise inaccessible information related to Austrian refugees at the outset of WWII.” With the NEL, Tiger was able to find personal accounts and information about refugee activities after settling in the United States. “None of this turned up elsewhere on the Internet. The National Emergency Library has helped me to do deep, intensive research I’d never be able to do otherwise. Most of the materials are impossible to access because they’re out of print and not in the collections of any local libraries or impossible to borrow digitally from libraries that have a copy because they require memberships with certain institutions or have other restrictions that shut out large numbers of researchers.”
Ennis B., Metuchen, New Jersey, Student: Through the NEL, Ennis “learned so much about the LGBT history that has been deliberately kept from young people. Even separated from my physical community, I don’t feel alone, because I can read the zines, websites…written by LGBT people who have blazed a brave path before me.”
Edwin S., Oslo, Norway, Researcher: “My research institute has a very limited library and with the library system shutdown around the world, the NEL was necessary to complete a research proposal for the Norwegian Research Council. We will be studying the history of pandemics and designing future public health heritage to increase awareness of the dangers of zoonotic pandemics while also reducing stigmatism of vulnerable populations. I would be completely unable to do my job and keep a steady income without the assistance of NEL. Being able to successfully apply for external funding is necessary to keep my institute afloat and me employed. I look forward to the day when online libraries will be the norm. This is an invaluable service that you provide to humanity.”
Robert N., Katy, Texas, Author: Robert runs a small indie publishing ebook company and was enthusiastic about the NEL because “It made it easier to do copyright research for ebooks my company is publishing.” Robert is a previous user of Open Library, using it to research out-of-print books. “During the emergency unrestricted opening because of COVID, I used it to check on copyright, to find a Table of Contents of various poetry collections and short story collections.” The NEL helped Robert save time, and because of that time savings, “it will help me to publish additional ebooks.”
Manoj P., Gautam Buddh Nagar, India, Reader: Manoj used the NEL to research the topics of psychology & Ikeda Sensei’s books on Buddhism. “While I could satisfy a very insignificant amount of my appetite, yet at one time I felt so proud to be owning a library, my library of such books.” The NEL has brought Manoj “great joy and happiness, just at the sight of books so rare and precious.”
Dimiter, Bulgaria, Reader: Dimiter used the NEL extensively and found the availability of the NEL collections “enormously positive.” “The lock down here was very serious, the libraries and bookshops were closed down for more than 2 months. NEL was a real lifeline!”
Mayra M., Dallas, Texas, Reader: Mayra used the NEL for personal reading to stave off boredom during the pandemic. “Thank you so much for what you did, with money being tight it was amazing to have this resource…I’m sad to see this ending.”
Mark D., Lafayette, Louisiana, Educator: Mark writes, “Once the University of Louisiana at Lafayette shut down in March, I still had half a semester of a research-focused graduate class to teach. I was able to refer my students to the National Emergency Library to find books that would help them with their research papers. I also used the NEL for background research to help me prepare for class meetings.The National Emergency Library allowed my students access to authoritative books for their research papers at a time when other resources (our university’s library, including its interlibrary loan service) were not available.”
Our team of librarians launched the NEL on March 24 to help those who were disconnected from their physical libraries, and the feedback our team received has been overwhelming. Almost immediately after launch, we started receiving messages from teachers, librarians, and parents who were delighted to find needed books after many schools and libraries closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, we heard from researchers and educators who found texts for their coursework and research. Feedback continues to this day, indicating that the NEL has provided a necessary service for digital learners.
As we close the NEL, we are proud of our work and how it has helped. We gathered some of the most impactful statements to show how the NEL has been used and the impact it has made while our schools and libraries are closed. We are excited that the needs of our patrons will continue to be met through traditional controlled digital lending.
What You Are Saying About the National Emergency Library
We only use testimonials for which we have explicit permission. If you would like to share how you’ve used the NEL or the impact that it has had for you, please submit a testimonial. Condensed from testimonials sent to the Internet Archive:
Margaret D., Nassau, Bahamas, Educator: Margaret is an educator who uses the NEL for reading books in a classroom setting. ‘I use the NEL daily for read-alouds and reading recommendations for students during remote learning, in addition to personal reading as well. It is the best thing to happen for my classwork needs and resources. And [I] couldn’t have functioned without it. The NEL is [a] godsend.’
Benjamin S., Camden, New Jersey, Librarian: Benjamin is a librarian who uses the NEL to help his community. ‘I was able to find basic life support manuals (BLS Provider Manual) needed by front line medical workers in the academic medical center I work at. The physical collection was closed due to COVID-19 and the NEL allows me to still make necessary health informational materials available to my hospital patrons. It has also provided anatomy materials for the gross anatomy lab in the medical school. Additionally, the NEL has allowed me to augment the resources provided from paid databases to patrons in their transition to online learning.’
Kathleen M., Santa Clara, California, Professor: Kathleen is a Professor with the Department of Art and Art History at Santa Clara University. ‘The Internet Archive has been a godsend for my students at Santa Clara University this quarter—especially with all libraries and interlibrary loan services closed. My students wrote sophisticated research papers on a variety of subjects during spring quarter. The Internet Archive was a major factor in their success. They and I are so grateful that you made the decision to make all books available during COVID-19. Thank you so much!’
Jessica T., Albany, California, Parent: Jessica is a parent who uses the National Emergency Library to help with homeschooling her children. ‘Our local schools shutdown with little time for anyone to prepare. The 4th graders were reading an historic novel set during World War II but did not bring home physical copies. The wait list for a digital copy at our local public library was weeks long, but with a few clicks, I found it available to borrow on the National Emergency Library. I think of all those physical copies of the book gathering dust at the school and am so grateful that the NEL is there to help our kids stay connected with their schoolwork.’
Blake G., Scotland, Texas, Former College Professor, Librarian, Author, and Journalist: Blake ‘read this week about the lawsuit against you and I’m writing to express my support for Open Library.
As a former librarian, I think what Open Library offers is exactly equivalent to what libraries do. You give people access to books to borrow for a limited period of time without charging anything for them. That’s what libraries all over do and publishers don’t sue them. Open Library provides an invaluable public service that should be allowed to continue.
I find Open Library even more valuable than most libraries because you offer people like me, who live in out of the way places, access to books that we could never borrow from libraries near where we live. I am currently working on a book about blacks who migrated from the South to Boston after World War II. Like most authors, I can’t afford to buy every book I need for my research, but I live in a small town in Texas, so most of the books I need are not available at any library nearby. I have been able to read numerous books on Open Library for my project that I wouldn’t be able to access any other way.’
Lauren M., Portage, Michigan, Librarian: Lauren is a librarian who uses the NEL for personal use. ‘During the shutdown when things are difficult to retrieve through my local library and funds are tight or insecure because of the falling economy the NEL has been a relief and lifeline to diverse materials that are not accessible or out of financial reach for me and my family. The materials available have allowed me to hold virtual book clubs with friends at a time when I desperately need the distraction and social interaction. It has also been a comfort and resource as I navigate virtual schooling with my kids and teachers who ask for them to do research papers. Additionally, I am now seeing the results of the need for accessibility at all levels of our institutional structures. Free library resources have proven time and again their importance to a healthy and productive society. This holds just as much weight in the digital realm to my family and friends.’
Carole L., Bedminster, New Jersey, Author and Former Children’s Librarian: Carole is a former children’s librarian and author who uses the NEL for her personal use. ‘I am researching women’s suffrage, in addition to alerting others to the NEL. I have been recommending the NEL to friends and others (via tinyurl.com/familylearningideas) as a resource for teachers and students separated from school libraries and classroom sets. And I am writing my response to the New York Times article. This article and the lawsuit neglect to mention that these books are still just two-week loans, no different from what traditional libraries normally do. These scans give virtual access to the hundreds of millions of books locked behind library doors and in classrooms during the Covid-19 crisis. They are scans so much inferior to regular e-books or paper books in terms of readability, but give students, scholars, and readers access during this unprecedented lockdown. These are also not hot new books — most of the titles date prior to 2010 — and authors have the right to opt out their titles.
As a former children’s librarian and as an author, I understand the concern of authors, illustrators, and publishers, but let’s look at the whole picture. We are in a time of (inter)national emergency when literally billions of students, scholars, and readers around the world lack access to libraries. Many families are losing loved ones or jobs and are worried about rent and food money. Most of the titles in this collection are out-of-print backlists so the author and publisher wouldn’t be getting much in the way of royalties anyway. Isn’t this a perfect opportunity to give everyone a chance to borrow the books they need and make everyone’s lives just a little bit easier?
It could even expose kids, teens, and adults to authors they might get excited about — making them want to purchase (or ask their library to purchase) the next title an author releases! Including my Remembering the Ladies: From Patriots in Petticoats to Presidential Candidates available to borrow from the National Emergency Library, to download and print at tellingherstories.com, or to buy in print at Amazon.com and other online retailers. I also have created a compilation of fun family sites for at-home learning (via https://tinyurl.com/familylearningideas).’
Katrina R., Detroit, Michigan, Librarian: Katrina is a librarian using the NEL for research. ‘I have used the NEL to help students and researchers access materials that they would otherwise be unable to access or request because of the coronavirus pandemic. Without this access, I believe student success will be negatively impacted as they try to complete their coursework. As an academic librarian working in an area of the country with a high rate of the coronavirus, the NEL has allowed me to continue to support the research needs of the University population while also keeping my colleagues and users safe.’
Christopher D., Baltimore, Maryland, Educator: Christopher is an educator who uses the NEL in a classroom setting for teaching, research, and the completion of his dissertation. ‘The NEL has been indispensable. With every library closed and many lending systems either unsuited or crashing due to the tidal influx of users, the NEL’s smart, easy interface has assisted and accelerated my research enormously. I also use the NEL in teaching to pull articles from otherwise unavailable or inaccessible texts.’
Kelly P., Detroit, Michigan, Researcher: Kelly uses the NEL for research purposes for her PhD. ‘The NEL has provided access to scholarly monographs that are unavailable during the global pandemic due to library closures. It [NEL] has provided tangible resources allowing me to continue my research work while disconnected from physical networks (office space, library access, institutional support spaces). It has shown the need for free digital resources at all times, not just during the shutdowns due to the global pandemic.’
Annie S., Florence, Massachusetts, Librarian: Annie is a librarian and has been able to use the NEL to find materials for a faculty member she works with. ‘Without access to library collections or exhaustive ILL services, I turned to the NEL, which was able to immediately provide the three volumes the professor needed. It has been a relief to know that the NEL is there for me and for the researchers I work with. I was not aware of the Internet Archive lending program before, but now I am grateful to have it in my back pocket.’
Mike M., Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, Researcher: Mike is a researcher who has been using the National Emergency Library for personal research purposes in fields of Geology and Art History. He called the NEL, “awesome.”
Jennifer J., Atlantic City, New Jersey, Librarian: Jennifer is a librarian who is using the National Emergency Library in a classroom setting, ‘[The NEL], provides my students with 9th grade student novels. I discovered the NEL from a librarian for the Atlantic City Public Library.’
Augusto W., Lima, Peru, Researcher: Augusto uses the National Emergency Library for personal research purposes. He marvels at ‘being able to flip through books I always wanted to take a look at or read, including many of which have been out of print for decades. This is the greatest gift of all for someone in need (or who dreamed) of a near-perfect library.’
Mary M., Bellevue, Washington, Educator: Mary uses the National Emergency Library in a classroom setting. ‘We are continuing to discuss books together even though the children are all at home. [And] we wouldn’t be able to have literature discussions without this because every other method is either maxed out (our library system), costs money, or takes families’ data. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I can try out some books we don’t own at school and when we are back, I’ll buy them for the class.’
Imre B., Budapest, Hungary, Researcher: Imre uses the National Emergency library for research purposes. ‘I am a PhD student at the University of Hagen, Germany based in Hungary. I am interested in U.S. democracy and political philosophy. I am not sure if these books were available to borrow before but now I can read books on English and U.S. history as well as political history/ideas. Books I really wanted. The NEL is a fantastic opportunity to read new information.’
Julie N., Neenah, Wisconsin, Reader: Julie is an avid reader and uses the National Emergency Library for personal use. ‘I am reading books by British women authors, bucket list authors, and titles not available in my local library system. The NEL is tremendously important. I love reading and would be lost during this difficult time if not for books. Thank you SO MUCH for this service.’
Nico L., Paris, France, Researcher: Nico uses the National Emergency Library for research purposes. ‘Access to rare but very useful scholarly 20th century books in English is already hard to access from France, but with all libraries closed this is my only way to access them. I scratched my head a few times dreading when and how I would be able to finally find these books… then I thought to try the NEL AND VOILA. Thank you so much for your librarianship. Reasonable access for ALL. This is just a fantastic resource, surprisingly so.’