Disabled Patron Asks Publishers: ‘Let us read, let us learn.’

Editorial note: The following message came into our patron services team this week. We are posting here in full with the patron’s permission as it explains the full scope of the challenges our readers are facing following the publishers’ decision to remove more than 500,000 books from our lending library.

Here is Maureen, in her own words:

“I use the Internet Archive for many reasons and the book removals have impacted my ability to do so! Despite my good fortune to live in a community which provides a great library with plenty of physical books and a decent digital selection via Libby, the Archive still meets needs which my local library cannot fulfill.

I’m disabled: it causes fatigue, executive dysfunction, and more. I also am at high risk for Long Covid complications, so I try to limit my time in crowded public areas.

Additionally I live in an area with extreme weather that runs the gamut from whiteout blizzards, river floods making roads impassable, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, extreme heat, wildfire smoke, and on and on!

This means that actually GETTING to the library can be a challenge at times, especially as I work, which further reduces the hours available.

While I do have a decent selection of typical contemporary ebooks via my community library’s Libby app, many topics of importance to me aren’t represented well or at all.

These include:

* LGBT, feminist, and disability studies books (many of which are long out of print, had small print runs or cost exorbitant academic prices, and were published long before ebooks existed or only in other areas of the world).

* retro/vintage/historical children’s picture books as well as vintage scifi and fantasy books, for many of the reasons listed above.

* Niche topics in anthropology, archaeology, and world religions. (Again for the aforementioned reasons).

It also really infuriates me that the lawsuit claims that use of the Archive’s library is just “recreational”.

* Just because I’m no longer in college or grad school doesn’t mean I’ve stopped learning, or privately researching, or somehow lost my desire for knowledge!

* (Plus, full-time and part-time independent scholars EXIST OUTSIDE OF THE ACADEMY and it’s so disheartening to see their contributions ignored/denied.)

* All children’s books are BY DEFINITION educational! They’re teaching kids to read!!!!!

* So are all nonfiction & biography books! They convey important information that help people make sense of the world.

* Vintage/retro genre books (romance, mystery, scifi etc) are in fact subjects of scholarship, through Fandom Studies, Leisure Studies, History, Literature etc. The Browne Popular Culture Library at Bowling Green State University is a perfect example!

* And yes, contemporary genre books are subjects of scholarship too. And while many non-academics read vintage and/or contemporary genre books for solely for fun, many of us also like to chart changes in genre over time.

* For example, I am a Trekkie (Star Trek fan) and comparing very early Trek novels with recent ones is illuminating on a fandom history level AND a sociological level.

***Education and scholarship also mean private self-study. Publishers need to stop locking knowledge in the academic ivory tower!!!!!!!!***

In short- the Internet Archive is very important to me and millions of other readers. The books need to be restored to circulation. Let us read, let us learn.”

Maureen L., Iowa City, Iowa

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