Frequently Asked Questions about the National Emergency Library
March 24, 2020 (last updated July 13, 2020)
The National Emergency Library closed on June 16, 2020. Learn more.
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Table of Contents
- Who can use the library? This is a global pandemic, is your library open to everyone?
- Why is it called a “National Emergency” Library when it’s open to the world?
- How long will the National Emergency Library be in operation?
- Who supports this effort?
- Why is the Internet Archive doing this?
- How do I sign up for access?
- How do I check out a book?
- What if I’m still reading my book when my 14-day loan is up?
- I’m an educator. Will this work for a classroom of students?
- How old do you have to be to sign up for access?
- What about FERPA and COPPA?
- Do you have a collection for students organized by reading level or grade?
- Reading Level - Grade 3
- Reading Level - Grade 4
- Reading Level - Grade 5
- Reading Level - Grade 6
- Reading Level - Grade 7
- Reading Level - Grade 8
- Reading Level - Grade 9
- Reading Level - Grade 10
- Reading Level - Grade 11
- Reading Level - Grade 12
- Reading Level - Adult Reader
- Besides the lists above, how do I make sure my students find age-appropriate materials in the National Emergency Library?
- Can I read books from the National Emergency Library aloud to my students via online platforms?
- What’s in your collection?
- Do you have textbooks?
- I get ebooks from my public library. How is this different from OverDrive or Hoopla?
- Where do you get your books?
- What about older books?
- How can I contribute?
- If I am an author and I do not want my book to be temporarily available during this crisis, how can I remove my book from the National Emergency Library?
- Can I donate books?
- Are there other ways I can support this effort?
- What will happen after the end of the US national emergency?
- What is the legal basis for Internet Archive’s digital lending during normal times?
- Is this controlled digital lending?
- Is the Internet Archive making these books available without restriction?
- What about those who say we’re stealing from authors & publishers?
- Do libraries have to ask authors or publishers to digitize their books?
Who can use the library? This is a global pandemic, is your library open to everyone?
Yes, the Internet Archive loans digitized books to the world. Our digital library is free to read for anyone with an internet connection, anywhere in the world. We are a global library.
Why is it called a “National Emergency” Library when it’s open to the world?
We wanted to be very clear about the duration of this emergency library. It is meant to meet a specific, extraordinary need - universities, school, and libraries around the world are closed and people cannot access the physical materials within. While we serve the world, we operate in the United States, and so we are taking the extraordinary measure to suspend waitlists on our lending collection through the duration of the US national emergency to meet the educational and inspirational needs of a global community of readers and learners.
How long will the National Emergency Library be in operation?
The library will have suspended waitlists through June 30, 2020, or the end of the US national emergency, whichever is later. After that, waitlists will be dramatically reduced to their normal capacity, which is based on the number of physical copies in Open Libraries.
Who supports this effort?
Why is the Internet Archive doing this?
According to UNESCO, the COVID-19 crisis has shuttered the classrooms for one-in-five students worldwide, plus an additional one-in-four from higher education classes. And that number is growing, quickly approaching 1 billion students physically cut off from classrooms, teachers and libraries.
Internet Archive’s mission is to provide “Universal Access to All Knowledge.” We believe this is an extraordinary moment in time that requires assistance at a scale that we are able to provide. Suspending waitlists will put books in the hands of people who need them, supporting emergency remote teaching, research activities, independent scholarship, and intellectual stimulation while universities, schools, training centers, and libraries are closed.
How do I sign up for access?
How do I check out a book?
You can browse our collection or search for books or authors at https://archive.org/details/nationalemergencylibrary Use the “Search this Collection” box along the left to begin. During this time of emergency, users can check out up to 10 books at a time.
What if I’m still reading my book when my 14-day loan is up?
While waitlists are suspended you will be able to check the book out again. Once waitlists are back in place at the end of the US national emergency, users will once again join waitlists to view available copies.
I’m an educator. Will this work for a classroom of students?
Yes. Part of our reasoning to suspend waitlists was to meet this classroom need, expressed to us by many educators and librarians as their schools closed.
How old do you have to be to sign up for access?
Anyone with an email address can sign up for an account with the Internet Archive and access the National Emergency Library. Please visit https://archive.org/account/signup. Parents may want to use their own email addresses to sign up and check out books for their children, or create a new dedicated email with no identifying information to use for this purpose.
What about FERPA and COPPA?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. This law does not apply to the Internet Archive.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a Federal law that imposes certain requirements on operators of for-profit websites or online services relating to the personal information of children under the age of 13. This law also does not apply to the Internet Archive.
Teachers should communicate with their school administration about best practices for complying with FERPA and COPPA requirements when conducting education online. One potential solution is to obtain parental consent via an online form or permission slip.
Do you have a collection for students organized by reading level or grade?
Yes! The Internet Archive has partnered with ISKME and an expert group of educators and school librarians to develop the Universal School Library, a curated list of 2,300 books organized by reading level and grade. You can browse the whole collection or find books for a particular reader:
Besides the lists above, how do I make sure my students find age-appropriate materials in the National Emergency Library?
The National Emergency Library has books for all age levels, some of which may not be suitable for younger readers. Parents, teachers and librarians can review the collection and link directly to the books that they deem appropriate rather than having younger readers search the broader collection themselves.
Can I read books from the National Emergency Library aloud to my students via online platforms?
The Internet Archive has no objections to this practice but we cannot give specific advice on how others might respond.
A group of copyright experts have put out guidance that can help teachers navigate whether reading aloud online is permissible. It’s important to read the whole document for context, however, the executive summary says:
- When teachers translate classroom practices of reading aloud to online student facing tools, such as distribution through a school website, learning management system, or live webcast, fair use enables most of the same practices online that take place in person.
- In a temporary emergency involving extensive school closures, teachers and schools should feel even greater confidence in reading aloud through digital platforms, including platforms without access controls, if necessary to reliably reach students.
- Fair use also provides strong legal authority for practices focused on ensuring equity of access for students with disabilities, English language learners, and other vulnerable student populations. Consistent with the principles of universal design, the ability to engage with materials read aloud should be enabled as widely as possible.
What’s in your collection?
Great books! We worked with Phillips Academy, Andover to digitize their entire library, giving high school students everywhere access to a world-class school library. https://archive.org/details/phillipsacademy
Last year we received the entire contents of the Marygrove College library when the school closed in December, featuring a collection rich in materials relating to social justice. https://archive.org/details/marygrovecollege
We have taken several different strategies to build our collection. We’ve been working off a wish list of titles gathered by comparing lists of the most cited books in Wikipedia, the most commonly held books by academic and public libraries in the US and Canada, and books assigned in syllabi and course listings.
All in all, we have worked to build a collection that represents the reading and research interests of patrons of both academic and public libraries. We have also worked to build a collection that is inclusive and reflects the diverse voices in our community.
Do you have textbooks?
No, not many. We have older textbooks that have been donated from libraries, but we don’t have recent materials.
I get ebooks from my public library. How is this different from OverDrive or Hoopla?
Our focus is providing online access to older books that don’t have an ebook. OverDrive and Hoopla are great services and we fully support your public library and their work in making those books available to you. Those services generally have the latest bestsellers and popular titles, along with a limited backlist. Think of our collection as complementary - we have focused on acquiring and digitizing books from the 1920s-1990s that don’t have an ebook available except for our scanned copy.
Where do you get your books?
The Internet Archive has a special partnership with Better World Books, now owned by a non-profit, which receives its books from libraries and individuals. We also purchase books and receive books through major donations.
What about older books?
Yes, the Internet Archive has over 2.5 million books that are in the public domain. Those books do not require any waitlist at any time because they are out of copyright and can be freely read and redistributed.
How can I contribute?
Publishers and authors, if you have digital books you would like to donate, please contact Chris Freeland, Director of Open Libraries.
If I am an author and I do not want my book to be temporarily available during this crisis, how can I remove my book from the National Emergency Library?
Authors who do not want their books in the National Emergency Library should send an email to email@example.com with “National Emergency Library Removal Request” as the subject line. Please include each URL of the book or books you would like to have removed. Please allow up to 72 hours for processing as we are a small team.
Can I donate books?
Are there other ways I can support this effort?
Yes, individuals can donate cash, cryptocurrency, securities and estate gifts.
When you sign up for Amazon Smile and choose the Internet Archive as your donation beneficiary, Amazon will donate .5% of every purchase you make to the Archive. To sign up and support us, visit: https://smile.amazon.com/ch/94-3242767
Round up at BetterWorldBooks.com
When you purchase a book from Better World Books, you have the option of rounding up your purchase to support Internet Archive.
- We’d love to hear how you’re using the National Emergency Library. Please leave feedback today!
What will happen after the end of the US national emergency?
The waitlist suspension will run through June 30, 2020, or the end of the US national emergency, whichever is later. After that, the waitlists will be dramatically reduced to their normal capacity, which is based on the number of physical copies in Open Libraries.
What is the legal basis for Internet Archive’s digital lending during normal times?
The concept and practice of controlled digital lending (CDL) has been around for about a decade. It is a lend-like-print system where the library loans out a digital version of a book it owns to one reader at a time, using the same technical protections that publishers use to prevent further redistribution. The legal doctrine underlying this system is fair use, as explained in the Position Statement on Controlled Digital Lending.
Is this controlled digital lending?
No. It is close to controlled digital lending but is significantly different while waitlists are suspended. This library is being mobilized in response to a global pandemic and US national emergency. It shares aspects of controlled digital lending by controlling the physical book that was scanned and the redistribution of files through digital rights management software, but differs by having no waitlists for users borrowing books. Once the US national emergency is over and waitlists are back to their normal capacity, the service will return to full controlled digital lending.
Is the Internet Archive making these books available without restriction?
No. Readers who borrow a book from the National Emergency Library get it for only two weeks, and their access is disabled unless they check it out again. Internet Archive also uses the same technical protections that publishers use on their ebook offerings in order to prevent additional copies from being made or redistributed.
What about those who say we’re stealing from authors & publishers?
Libraries buy books or get them from donations and lend them out. This has been true and legal for centuries. The idea that this is stealing fundamentally misunderstands the role of libraries in the information ecosystem. As Professor Ariel Katz, in his paper Copyright, Exhaustion, and the Role of Libraries in the Ecosystem of Knowledge explains:
“Historically, libraries predate copyright, and the institutional role of libraries and institutions of higher learning in the “promotion of science” and the “encouragement of learning” was acknowledged before legislators decided to grant authors exclusive rights in their writings. The historical precedence of libraries and the legal recognition of their public function cannot determine every contemporary copyright question, but this historical fact is not devoid of legal consequence… As long as the copyright ecosystem has a public purpose, then some of the functions that libraries perform are not only fundamental but also indispensable for attaining this purpose. Therefore, the legal rules ... that allow libraries to perform these functions remain, and will continue to be, as integral to the copyright system as the copyright itself.”
Do libraries have to ask authors or publishers to digitize their books?
No. Digitizing books to make accessible copies available to the visually impaired is explicitly allowed under 17 USC 121 in the US and around the world under the Marrakesh Treaty. Further, US courts have held that it is fair use for libraries to digitize books for various additional purposes.
Do you have APIs or downloads of your data?
Yes, the Internet Archive has extensive APIs that you can use to interact with our collections. You can download a simple list of the ISBNs represented in our collection at https://archive.org/download/ia-current-isbns/current-isbns.tsv. This file is updated daily.