The Internet Archive Launches the National Emergency Library
The Internet Archive announced March 24, 2020 that they would be suspending waiting lists for the books in its lending library, allowing users to borrow books from a list of 1.4 million titles. This is of course in response to shut downs of libraries and institutions across the country in the wake of COVID-19. The suspension will run through June 30, 2020.
Normally, only one user at a time would be able to “borrow” a digital copy of a book from the Internet Archive for two weeks. However, in an effort to ensure students and others continue to have access to needed resources, multiple users can now borrow a digital copy of a book.
Brewster Kahle, Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive stated: “The library system, because of our national emergency, is coming to aid those that are forced to learn at home. This was our dream for the original Internet coming to life: the Library at everyone’s fingertips.”
The content of this library is mostly items published during the 20th century that are not easily available to buy as ebooks, versus popular best sellers that would be featured in a bookstore.
In a followup statement, the Internet Archive addressed questions and concerns around the legality of the Emergency Library. They had met resistance from and criticism from the Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers who called the opening of the National Emergency Library “aggressive, unlawful and opportunistic.” In fact, I was interested to learn that this is legal. The books in the NEL (National Emergency Library) were acquired via purchase or donation like a regular library. It is legal to digitize and offer these books for lending. The books are lent to a reader with protections that prevent redistribution. This is also legal. These protections against redistribution are still in place for books in the NEL. If any authors wish to opt out, they are able to.
We are living through an unprecedented event and we are all having to adapt to a new environment with new rules of engagement. Organizations like the Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers should recognize the reality of our situation and reserve judgment. This library is focused on providing access to books that cannot be bought online as digital copies and only available through public libraries that are currently closed. I feel the Internet Archive has made the correct move to ensure access and continued education during this crisis.
Laura Vroom – 653-01