Internet Archive Makes 1.4 Million Digital Books Available Immediately
National Emergency Library offers access to digitized books that only exist in paper format
Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown orders force people across the globe to shelter in place. On March 13, 2020, President Trump declared the outbreak a National Emergency in the United States just two days after the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic. The disruption of the lives of more than a billion people includes students and teachers pushed online from their schools and universities into distance learning positions. Their move online limits access to teaching materials and strains the library and e-delivery systems that make online learning possible. In an effort to alleviate that strain, the Internet Archive created a National Emergency Library today, “a collection of books that supports emergency remote teaching, research activities, independent scholarship, and intellectual stimulation while universities, schools, training centers, and libraries are closed.”
In 1996, the Internet Archive began building a digital library of websites and cultural artifacts. Their stated mission is to “provide Universal Access to All Knowledge”. In keeping with its mission, the Internet Archive created its National Emergency Library by suspending the waitlist for more than 1.4 million books in its digital lending library. By suspending the waitlist, learning materials become immediately available to anyone — not just Americans — who needs them through at least June 30, 2020, which is the end of the academic calendar year. Waitlist suspension will continue beyond June 30 should the US national emergency extend beyond that date too.
“The library system, because of our national emergency, is coming to aid those that are forced to learn at home, ” said Brewster Kahle, Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive. “This was our dream for the original Internet coming to life: the Library at everyone’s fingertips.”
Although 1.4 million digital books pale in comparison to the inventory offered for free by large library systems, the National Emergency Library is of vital importance for one distinct reason: it contains digitized copies of books that are otherwise only available in paper form. Books only available in paper form sit inaccessible to students, teachers, and researchers, on the shelves of closed library systems. For example, the National Emergency Library includes all books from Phillips Academy Andover and Marygrove College and much of Trent University’s collections.
Visit the National Emergency Library to browse and borrow books, and share the library with anyone who you think could benefit from it.
Thank you for reading! You can find me on Twitter.