Today, the Internet Archive announced that it is ending its National Emergency Library lending program, citing the efforts of local libraries and other institutions to increase the circulation of digital books. In order to meet the increased need for digital access to books during the pandemic, and in response to the mass closure of schools and libraries, the Internet Archive temporarily suspended the waitlist function for its e-book lending program. This initiative, called the National Emergency Library, allowed users to immediately access any e-book in the Archive’s lending library.
Now that the public has access to more copies of digital books, the Internet Archive will be returning to a traditional controlled digital lending model, which allows digital copies to be loaned out at a one-to-one owned-to-loaned ratio. Public Knowledge commends the Internet Archive for championing access to knowledge during this time of crisis, and urges policymakers to support legislation that makes more print books available electronically.
The following can be attributed to Meredith Rose, Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:
“The National Emergency Library was an enormously important program that acted as a short-term band-aid to alleviate real, documented needs during a time of national crisis, providing access to books when library collections were inaccessible. With Hathitrust and other libraries stepping up to make their collections available through digital lending, educators, students, and others now have more ways to access the works they need. The NEL was always intended to be temporary, and we are glad to see that libraries have joined forces to bridge the gaps exacerbated by COVID-19.
“However, plugging this gap would not have been possible without use of controlled digital lending — something that our friends at the Association of Research Libraries have noted underpins efforts around the country. We call on policymakers to support legislation clarifying the right of libraries to make print books available to patrons electronically, and to serve their constituencies during times of emergency. We also call on publishers and other stakeholders to make books more accessible — particularly focusing on books which are out of print, and are necessary for research, education, and scholarship.”
You may read our recent blog post, “To Fight Misinformation, Bring our Libraries Online,” or view our recent webinar, “CDL: Getting Books to Students During the Pandemic,” for more information on controlled digital lending.
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