San Francisco-based Internet Archive’s Back-to-School Initiative compiled thousands of learning resources into one handy blog post for students, parents, educators and librarians. (Photo courtesy of Internet Archive)

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The shelter-in-place orders that began in March have uprooted the lives of kids, parents and educators. But there may be a silver lining: the discovery of unique and interesting resources—like San Francisco-based Internet Archive.

Founded in 1996 by Brewster Kahle, Internet Archive is a nonprofit library that offers free books, movies, software, music and more, with the goal of making all human knowledge accessible in digital formats. 

There is something for every age group, with billions of websites to choose from, and millions of books, images, audio files and video. The topics are endless and run the gamut from Art History to Zoology and everything in between.   

Just like the internet itself, Internet Archive is constantly evolving and adapting to users’ changing technology, research and learning needs. When the pandemic forced classrooms and libraries to close, Internet Archive saw a surge in usage. And in August, when schools started distance learning programs, Internet Archive launched a Back-to-School Initiative that compiled resource lists to make teaching and learning easier. 

The lists are broken into categories for students, parents, educators and librarians in its Back-to- School Initiative blog.

We caught up with Chris Freeland, Internet Archive director of open libraries, to learn more about what’s behind the effort.

It’s been about a month since the Back to-School Initiative launched. How’s it going so far?

The Internet Archive has been supporting schools since the beginning of the pandemic, helping displaced students and learners access books while their local libraries and schools were closed.  Now that we have months of understanding what kinds of materials people need, we put together those resource lists in August to help everyone engaged in education—parents, students, educators and librarians—find books, videos, websites and more.

What are the Internet Archive’s goals with the Back-to-School Initiative?

Our mission is to provide “Universal Access to All Knowledge.” When schools and libraries began closing in early March, we realized very quickly that digital learners were going to need access to the educational materials on our site.  We have a lot of content, and it can be hard to wade through at times, so we’ve used our Back-to-School initiative to highlight resources that would be of use to teachers, parents and students.

What are the most popular selections you offer? What are users really flocking to?  

Our resource guides have been well used this year, and our educational software and computer games are always fan favorites. Our collection of digitized books has also been useful while public and academic libraries have been closed, or limited the distribution of their physical books.

How has the usage of the Internet Archive changed during the shelter-in-place?

Our traffic certainly increased in the early days of the pandemic. As we reported in May, we increased our bandwidth capacity by 30% based on increased usage. 

What’s on the horizon? Any changes or additions that users should look for?

More—more books, more content, more resources. We just announced an effort to preserve open access journal articles that have been published on the web, which is helpful for advanced researchers.

Any tips you can offer users on how to get the most of this incredible resource?

As with any library, the best way of finding interesting content is to choose your passion and begin exploring through searches. It’s amazing what you can uncover in our archive.  If you need help, we’ve put together help articles and resource guides to give you an assist.