An ALA Presentation by Internet Archive: "Making Your Library a Digital Library by 2020"

Brewster Kahle and Wendy Hanamura Internet Archive (IA) reported progress in the Open Libraries Project, an initiative of great interest to library e-content aficionados.

The IA currently offers three million ebooks, in addition to many other formats including audio files and television shows.

Most of the eBook titles date prior to 1923 and are in public domain, but some 540,000 titles are more recent titles and usually copyright orphaned. IA is apprehensive about the nearly century of 1923 to present, often out-of-print and difficult to find in physical format, in danger of being lost forever, and certainly not available and in way preserved digitally. Many of the these titles can still be found on library shelves, but nowhere else: even publishers often have no remaining print copies. E-book licensing and copyright restrictions and lack of library staff and funding resources mitigate against preservation and digital discovery and circulation. Enter the Open Libraries Project.

IA is looking to provide free access to 4 million impactful titles.

If a library has a physical copy of a book, IA will digitize it. Will give the book back. If a small library, and don't have resources, will build a centralized circulation to help distribute.

Partners in/supporters of the project include Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), Digital Library Federation, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom "Our Voices" initiative, MIT Press (which is allowing digitization of their complete backlist), Boston Public Library and Houghton-Mifflin on their backlist. Houghton realizes that often only one copy of orphaned backlist titles exists--Boston Pubic. They are worried about preservation. Also worthy of mention is Delaware County Library in Ohio, which has shared its catalog to aid with discovery. Interestingly, as with many non-research libraries, fully a third of Delaware's titles were already digitized. It would seem that a the project already has a great start. Also instrumental are and TASCHA of University of Washington.


How it works--and the part that makes it interesting for ReadersFirst--is as follows. Libraries may pull one copy (if they have multiples) from circulation, have IA digitize it,  have it returned and then hold it back from physical circulation, and thereafter circulate digital copies on a one circ-one user model (i.e., no multi-user access). Libraries with resources may build a digital circ manager of their own, while others will get an assist from IA to foster circ. Alternately, libraries may de-accession a title, send it to IA, and have IA maintain a sole physical copy and handle digital distribution.


This process is interesting from a copyright perspective as an extension of right of first sale and fair use.

Of perhaps even greater RF interest is that IA hopes, Hanamura said, to "Create a delightful reading experience across devices." They are especially interested in software reading capabilities to extend accessibility for the visually impaired and dyslexic. They wish to build interoperable cross-platform systems with library and technology vendors and partners. They already plan to make the titles accessible via the SimplyE app, and libraries that deploy that app either individually or in consortia will be able to take advantage of the titles created in the project, which will foster both ePub and PDF releases.


The 5400,000 in-copyright works that have been digitized and made available to borrow digitally are on the 1 user/1 circ model to suit fair use. The titles are not those currently available via licensing from vendors. The aim is not to supplant such titles but to fill in the vast number of digitally unavailable titles.


IA seeks help in two ways. 


First, they are hoping for a grant with MacArther Foundation for $100 million.  This project is currently one of eight semi-finalists. They are up against fierce competition: for example, curing river blindness. Still, the view this project as a human rights matter:  it ensures knowledge access.  They also hope to build their platform to highlight reader privacy. "Long term free public access to knowledge is vital, and is not being done by Google or Amazon," said Kahle. They will move forward even without the grant, or a part of it, but it would be most helpful.


To make the project viable, they are also looking for 119,000 libraries to come on board to provide content and visibility


The project presents many opportunities. It can vastly increase circulation of materials, making works accessible only through ILL, or, not at all, available nationally. It can provide more equitable access, more room in libraries for people, and save money in ILL expenditures and staff time. It can use technology to read improve accessibility.  It can help ensure preservation, with publishers partnering.


So, how can you help? You can make your library a part by having works digitized by IA and circling them electronically. IA is developing processes to identify which works they might use, so you could de-accession some titles safe in the knowledge they will be preserved by IA. You can encourage ILS vendors to make adaptations to help get the content working in systems. You can encourage readers to suggest what titles they would Iike in the library. Support for the grant is welcome and helpful. You can Tweet your support @internetarchive and #100andChange.

After experiencing the disruptions of the digitization, libraries and our partners are aggressively launching initiatives to ensure discovery, access, and preservation. We live in exciting times. The Open Libraries project has enormous potential to help libraries at little cost to us, especially as it integrates with work such as SimplyE and NISOs's efforts to create API standards. ReadersFirst endorses the project and encourages libraries to find out more.