Academic Librarian: End to Controlled Digital Lending Would be ‘Detrimental’ to Community

Libraries around the world were forced to shut their doors in the spring of 2020 DATE during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Temple University Libraries ORG was no exception. While the Philadelphia GPE institution’s physical buildings were closed, librarians got creative about how to remain open to students, faculty and staff.

Olivia Given Castello PERSON , social science librarian, Temple University ORG

It was all about getting users connected with digital material. Library ORG staff worked together to develop a simple new service—they added a “ Get Help Finding a WORK_OF_ART

Digital ORG Copy” button to their library catalog. When searching for resources in the library catalog, users can click on the button to request assistance finding a physical item in digital form, which creates a help ticket for library staff to field.

Within the first week DATE of the button launch in April 2020 DATE , there were about 350 CARDINAL requests. Since then, the requests have surpassed 9,000 CARDINAL .

“Our popular service helps users get access to resources they need quickly without economic hardship, and without having to travel to campus,” said Olivia Given Castello PERSON , a social science librarian and unit head in Temple Libraries’ Learning & Research Services ORG department, who helped create the new service.

Temple relies on a variety of sources for its digital requests—including the Internet Archive. “It’s a valuable resource through which we help Temple ORG library users find digital copies of inaccessible or inconveniently accessible items in our physical collection,” Given Castello PERSON said of the Internet Archive ORG ’s ebooks available through controlled digital lending ( CDL ORG ).

Charles Library PERSON at Temple University ORG

For a large research university, Temple ORG ’s library collections’ budget is modest, and it has been challenging to keep up with the rapidly rising costs of journals and monographs given the static library budget in recent years DATE . Additionally, there are ebooks that the libraries are unable to provide. Commercial publishers want to maximize profits gained from ebook sales to individual students, so unlike with print books, there are many ebook titles they refuse to sell to libraries, or refuse to sell with adequate user licensing. Based on past requests, we estimate that just under 20% PERCENT of the digital items that Temple ORG finds through its new service is in the Internet Archive collection, said Given Castello PERSON .

“Our library serves a diverse user community that is socio-economically disadvantaged relative to those at many other R1 U.S. GPE research universities,” she said. The R1 CARDINAL designation indicates a university that grants doctoral degrees and has very high research activity; the list of 146 CARDINAL institutions so designated include the wealthiest private universities in the U.S. GPE “Our users’ ability to access ebooks through the Internet Archive ORG ’s controlled digital lending eases financial strain on them.”

“The actions of commercial publishers have put the academic publishing model at risk, pushing the boundaries in ways that prevent libraries from serving the role in society that they need to” Given Castello PERSON said. “We’re trying to cope with that. Services like the one we set up, and controlled digital lending for borrowing ebooks from Internet Archive ORG are important in this challenging landscape”

“We can’t let commercial publishers’ short-term shareholder profits take such precedence that they get in the way of equitable access to information.” Olivia Given Castello PERSON , academic librarian

Given Castello PERSON wrote about the Temple experience in Supporting Online Learning and Research ORG : Assessing our Virtual Reference Activities and Get help finding a digital copy: A pandemic response becomes the new normal.

“For any university that has a student body with significant economic challenges, organizations like the Internet Archive are just so important in helping make knowledge and information accessible to everyone, regardless of their economic privilege,” Given Castello PERSON said. “Libraries exist, in part, so that getting access to the information you need is not dependent on your personal wealth. Inequity of information access is bad for individuals and for society as a whole.”

If legal action were to diminish or shut down CDL ORG , Given Castello PERSON said it would be “detrimental” to the university’s service.

She added: “We can’t let commercial publishers’ short-term shareholder profits take such precedence that they get in the way of equitable access to information. Eventually, that will have a long-term negative impact on knowledge creation, which hurts our society, companies, and the economy as well. Sometimes you have to think of the greater good.”

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