Internet Archive Responds to Senator’s Concern Over National Emergency Library

The Internet Archive announced the National Emergency Library project on March 24, in response to the widespread closures of libraries and schools during the Covid-19 crisis, making its 1.4 million scans of mostly 20th century print books available for unlimited borrowing until June 30, or until the crisis is over. After some positive initial headlines, the move has drawn rebukes from some individual authors and publishers, as well as accusations from trade associations, including the Association of American Publishers, which has accused the Archive of an "opportunistic attack on the rights of authors and publishers," and the Authors Guild, which accused the Internet Archive of “acting as a piracy site.”

In his three-page response to Tillis, Kahle rejected those criticisms, and explained the creation of National Emergency Library using the Senator's constituents to illustrate its utility.

“Your constituents have paid for millions of books they currently cannot access,” Kahle explained, adding that North Carolina’s public libraries house more than 15 million print book volumes in 323 library branches across the state. “The massive public investment paid for by taxpaying citizens is unavailable to the very people who funded it,” he writes. “The National Emergency Library was envisioned to meet this challenge of providing digital access to print materials, helping teachers, students and communities gain access to books while their schools and libraries are closed.”

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