Controlled Digital Lending and the Open Library

Controlled Digital Lending

Loaning materials to patrons is a fundamental role of any library. The current COVID-19 pandemic has created an urgent need for libraries to find new ways of providing access to their collections. With many libraries now closed, patron demand for digital materials is higher than ever. As a result, many libraries have turned to Controlled Digital Lending in order to provide materials that their communities cannot access in any other way. 

City Tech Library is one of 18 CUNY libraries partnering with the Open Library, a project of the Internet Archive, to provide Controlled Digital Lending access to our collections.  Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) is the digital equivalent of traditional library lending. Under CDL, libraries own physical materials but make them available as digital copies. Libraries can digitize their books and lend out digital versions in place of print items. CDL has three core principles:

  1. A library must own a legal copy of the physical book.
  2. The library must maintain an “owned to loaned” ratio, lending no more copies than it legally owns.
  3. The library must use technical measures to ensure that the digital file cannot be copied or redistributed. 

The “fair use” section of copyright law allows libraries to responsibly lend materials through CDL. As long as the terms of loans are limited, and digitized books are locked so borrowers can’t download or otherwise copy them, libraries using CDL are within the boundaries of the law.

Michelle Wu, an attorney and law librarian, developed the concept of CDL. Her model of CDL had several goals, including:

  • Making print materials easier to discover;
  • Providing more efficient delivery of library resources;
  • Creating digital formats that are more accessible to those with disabilities; and/or
  • Preserving and protecting library collections, providing access to materials during natural disasters, severe weather, and health emergencies.

This short video is a fantastic explanation of CDL. 

Open Library  

Eighteen CUNY libraries, including City Tech, have partnered with the Open Library, a book digitization project of the Internet Archive that provides access to millions of books. Over 770,000 print books in CUNY collections across are now linked in OneSearch to electronic versions freely available in the Open Library. 

The browseable list of subjects can be found at http://openlibrary.org/subjects and the advanced search can be found at https://openlibrary.org/advancedsearch.

Once you create a free account, you may borrow up to ten books at a time for browsing (1 hour) or borrowing (14 days).  To borrow materials, please register for an account at: http://openlibrary.org/account/create and then go directly to the Borrowing landing page at http://openlibrary.org/borrow

Titles that are available will have the “Read in Browser” link, where users can borrow, download, and read in a variety of formats such as BookReader, Adobe Digital Editions, PDF, text, ePub, and Kindle editions. Most ebook reading platforms are available online for free download. Books with a lock icon are available to persons who are blind or with vision loss.

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