“While some have been thinking about issues around Controlled Digital Lending for many years, there is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the way we view the digital. The shutting of university buildings suddenly cut off access to physical copies for a prolonged period of time (most notably in the UK during our first lock-down last year). This lack of physical access shone a powerful spotlight on the compromises that we had been living with in terms of the balance between physical and electronic texts. Pre-pandemic we had rather muddled-through, aware of the problems caused by unsatisfactory and unaffordable business models and terms and conditions that limited use and reuse, but not seeing a clear way through.
The pandemic engendered a shift in the way in which we think about CDL. It begun a move from CDL being seen as a rather theoretical and esoteric topic – discussed and debated mainly by copyright specialists – to increasingly being viewed as a potentially key tool that allows librarians to connect information with readers. We can see this move in at least three areas:
Firstly, there are an increasing number of high-level statements and resources in support of CDL. An example of the former is the strong statement of support for CDL issued this summer by IFLA. And of the latter is the work from the US of the Library Futures Foundation and their Controlled Digital Lending: Unlocking the Library’s Full Potential.
Secondly, there have been technological changes. It is only one example, but I note the news last month from ExLibris of the release of a new tool as part of Alma to enable CDL and to view physical and digital holdings as part of the same collections and not separate.
And thirdly, CDL works and is seen to work. On a large scale, at the start of the pandemic the Internet Archive’s National Emergency Library proved to be hugely valuable. As was the Hathi Trust Emergency Library, which was widely used – mainly in the US, but also by at least one UK HE institution. This fortifies the shift in thinking about CDL from a theoretical ‘nice-to-have’ to a concrete tool….”