Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Emergency Libraries Provide Access to Books For CMU Researchers

by Bryan Whitledge

In these extraordinary times, it is impossible for anything to be “normal.” How can you do your “normal” research if all of the library buildings are closed? One answer is to toss your hands up in the air and forget about research. But that’s not what resilient and strong researchers at a world-class institution like Central do. So, there has to be another option. And thanks to the extraordinary efforts of institutions large and small across the county, the CMU Libraries is able to make your research as “normal” as possible. Two particular tools of note are the Hathi Trust Emergency Library and the National Emergency Library.

The Hathi Trust Emergency Library is exclusively for Hathi Trust member institutions, like Central Michigan University. The Hathi Trust already makes 6.5 million+ public domain books and documents in their holdings freely available to anyone with an internet connection.

Now, with the Emergency Library, Hathi Trust provides member institutions temporary access to those items that the member institution’s library holds and for which Hathi Trust has a digital copy. This doesn’t mean that all of the 17 million+ items in Hathi Trust are available to CMU-affiliated researchers. But it does mean that researchers with valid credentials can access about 46% of the books from the shelves of the Park and Clarke Historical Libraries in a virtual format, even those titles that are protected by copyright. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is no longer off-limits to you behind the locked doors of the Park Library. Hathi Trust makes it available to you in just a few clicks. Simply find the link for "Temporary Access," click on it, and then click “Check Out,” in the orange banner on the next page. The "Temporary Access" link may appear as a lock with "Limited (Search Only)" written next to it, if you are not logged in to Hathi Trust.

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In order to follow the Trust’s interpretation of US copyright provisions, Hathi Trust has put several measures in place that researchers should be aware of:
  • Affiliates of member institutions are required to log-in with their credentials.
  • “Temporary Access” books can be read online only.
  • You can Check Out a book for 1 hour. Your access will renew automatically at the end of that hour, unless another user requests the book after that hour is over.
  • Only one user may Check Out a book at a time (or one user per each copy of the book we hold).
  • Use the Return Early button to make it available for another user.
  • To read a book that is being used by someone else, you will need to check back periodically.

The second resource is the National Emergency Library. It is an effort of the Internet Archive to support education and research across the country. In the last week of March, they made 1.4 million books accessible to people across the country without their customary one-at-a-time lending practice. In order to access materials, you must create a free account with the Internet Archive. Many of the titles available are not in the public domain and some have argued that opening broad access to copyrighted materials is piracy. The Internet Archive argues that, in times of an unprecedented emergency, they are answering the needs of educators and learners with the National Emergency Library’s holdings, the bulk of which date from before the year 2000 and do not have a readily accessible e-book version. So, should you need to consult Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, you don’t have to worry that you can’t access DT33. F3 1968 in the Park Library, you can get it from the National Emergency Library.

Other than oral traditions, printed words on paper pages have been where, for centuries, we found most of the knowledge created and passed down by generations of humans. The digital information age is a relatively recent phenomenon. Often, researchers need information from a text created before the digital revolution. And the only place to get that information is from a book. And the only place to find that book is on the shelves of a library. With library buildings closed to help combat the spread of COVID-19, the next best thing for your research might just be an online emergency library.