With many schools, colleges, and universities across the world closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, American digital library, Internet Archive has unveiled a National Emergency Library program to provide students as well as the public access to their catalogue of 1.4 million books.
“The Internet Archive will suspend waitlists for the 1.4 million (and growing) books in our lending library by creating a National Emergency Library to serve the nation’s displaced learners,” the company explained in a blog post.
The suspension is in effect until June 30, 2020, or when the US state of emergency is lifted, whichever happens latest.
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While it is called a ‘National’ Emergency Library, the materials are being lent to the world.
However, the language was chosen intentionally, as the suspension of the waitlists will be congruent with the US national emergency.
“During the waitlist suspension, users will be able to borrow books from the National Emergency Library without joining a waitlist,” the post continues.
“Ensuring that students will have access to assigned readings and library materials that the Internet Archive has digitized for the remainder of the US academic calendar.”
The program also extends to those who are not able to gain entry to local libraries due to closures or quarantining to make sure that they are still able to read while committing to their efforts of physical distancing.
The library consists of books from Phillips Academy Andover and Marygrove College, and a variety of collections from Trent University, as well as millions of other books that have been donated from other facilities.
“The library system, because of our national emergency, is coming to aid those that are forced to learn at home,” Brewster Kahle, Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive, said in the post.
“This was our dream for the original internet coming to life: the Library at everyone’s fingertips.”
While there, of course, will not be enough books to meet every individual readers’ needs, those that have been digitized by the library focus primarily on works published in the 20th century, most of which do not have accessible ebooks.
Students and readers can already access best-sellers and other popular works through services such as Amazon and OneDrive.
However, they do not have access to works that have only been published on paper, which they could only otherwise be able to access by visiting a library.
“That’s where our collection fits in — we offer digital access to books, many of which are otherwise unavailable to the public while our schools and libraries are closed,” the post states.
“In addition to the National Emergency Library, the Internet Archive also offers free public access to 2.5 million fully downloadable public domain books, which do not require waitlists to view.”
If this sounds like an initiative that you would be passionate about, there are ways to help.
Users are encouraged to read and recommend books from the National Emergency Library, sponsor a book to be digitized and preserved, and endorse the effort either through your company or individually.
As well, you can share the news of the National Emergency Library across your social media accounts using #NationalEmergencyLibrary.