Internet Archive is a Digital Oasis for Book and Music Lovers on Remote Vermont Island

Living in the middle of Lake Champlain in Vermont, Eleanor Martinez says she enjoys the beautiful scenery all around, especially the fall foliage. It’s been an idyllic place to retire, but there is one thing she misses: a public library.

Martinez, and her husband, Sid, live on Isle La Motte, which is 7 miles long and 2 miles wide, accessible by one bridge and has a population of 400. There is a library on the island, but it is private, and open by appointment only. The public libraries in nearby towns have limited collections.

“The Internet Archive has been a lifesaver,” says Martinez, who discovered the online collection about two years ago. She’s a regular user of the virtual library, checking out books and music on her laptop in the comfort of her rural home.

The wooded, nine-acre property was a draw for the retirees, who relocated in 2018, but it is remote. In the winter, it can sometimes take more than a week for a snowplow to reach their gravel road. Martinez, 66, lived most of her life in more urban areas in California and Minnesota where she enjoyed large, metropolitan public libraries nearby. The Internet Archive has provided access to materials she would not otherwise be able to enjoy in her small town.

Martinez has tapped into the Internet Archive to check out books, from “The Modern Temper” by Joseph Wood Krutch to “The Theory of the Leisure Class” by Thorsten Veblen. She enjoys vintage cookbooks, books on gardening, knitting and poetry.

Martinez found Down Beat magazines dating back to the 1930s about the jazz and blues scene. She’s also discovered music not available elsewhere on vinyl or CD.

“I was able to check out 33-1/3 records and 78s, too,” Martinez said. “This is a boon to those of us who don’t have access to large collections of records, and for those of us who are low-income and living on a fixed income.”

One of her favorite music items is “In a Clock Store,” a novelty recording from 1907 that includes sounds from a clock in the background. “I’m listening to something that is from a time when my grandfather would have been a teenager,” she said. “It was a different world.”

Another copy of that 78rpm recording shines a light on the importance of digitizing and preserving recordings on the obsolete medium—notes made by the audio engineer at the time of digitization indicate that the second side of this record wasn’t able to be preserved “due to physical condition of disc.”

After a pause, Martinez added a final thought: “The Internet Archive has just about everything I’ve been looking for—even things that are pretty obscure. It’s amazing.”

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