“On March 15, the small island nation of Aruba, part of the Dutch Carribean, closed its borders to visitors. Cruise ships packed with tourists stopped coming. Casinos, libraries and schools shut their doors, as Aruba’s 110,000 residents locked down to halt the spread of COVID-19.
That’s when the Biblioteca Nacional Aruba (National Library of Aruba) swung into action.
Librarians quickly gathered reading lists from students, parents and schools. With high school graduation exams just a month away, the required literature books would be crucial. Aruban students are tested on books in Dutch, English, Spanish and their native language of Papiamento. “Just before your literary final exams, you need to re-read the books,” explained Peter Scholing, who leads digitization efforts at the National Library of Aruba. “The libraries are closed. Your school libraries are closed. You can order from Amazon, but it takes weeks and weeks to arrive. If you are in an emergency, then you hope your books are online.”
Scholing was relieved to discover that most of the required literature in English and Spanish was available in the Internet Archive’s National Emergency Library. As library staff moved to work from home, they grabbed the tools to digitize the books in Papiamento that were missing. Many local authors were easy to track down and most gladly gave permission for free downloads or loaning their works. Scholing reports, “Some of them choose digital lending. But a lot of them say, ‘Well it was a limited print run….I’ve sold all the copies of my books, now you can just make it available for download.’” …”