Controlled Digital Lending Working Group

The BLC was founded upon a shared commitment to promote cooperation in making resources more readily available. This commitment is undoubtedly challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic–but creates space for us to advance our strategic directions. Our collective inquiry into emerging mechanisms and review of the lending landscape will inform opportunities to expand and reimagine resource sharing across the consortium. 

At its September 2020 meeting, the BLC Board of Directors approved the creation of a new Working Group to explore controlled digital lending as a consortium and identify potential recommendations.

The Controlled Digital Lending Position Statement, including several individual and institutional signatories from BLC member libraries, defines controlled digital lending as follows,

“CDL enables a library to circulate a digitized title in place of a physical one in a controlled manner. Under this approach, a library may only loan simultaneously the number of copies that it has legitimately acquired, usually through purchase or donation. For example, if a library owns three copies of a title and digitizes one copy, it may use CDL to circulate one digital copy and two print, or three digital copies, or two digital copies and one print; in all cases, it could only circulate the same number of copies that it owned before digitization. Essentially, CDL must maintain an “owned to loaned” ratio. Circulation in any format is controlled so that only one user can use any given copy at a time, for a limited time. Further, CDL systems generally employ appropriate technical measures to prevent user from retaining a permanent copy or distributing additional copies.”


The Controlled Digital Lending Working Group is tasked with conducting an initial assessment of controlled digital lending software, services, and agreements and providing recommendations on the next steps in evaluating opportunities for implementing or supporting secure lending of digital resources among interested consortium member libraries.

The Working Group:

  • investigates delivery mechanisms, software, workflows, policies, copyright and legal issues, shared storage solutions, and other actions related to a potential consortial implementation of controlled digital lending among BLC member libraries;
  • shares promising practices and seeks out educational opportunities to deepen our collective understanding of controlled digital lending and secure access to digital resources;
  • engages with established and recognized groups, including other consortia and groups such as the new CDL-I group, to inform our work; and,
  • undertakes additional tasks as determined in collaboration with the BLC Board of Directors, relevant BLC Communities, and other stakeholders.

Members of the Working Group participate in one of three sub-groups—Copyright, Scale, and Technology—in addition to monthly meetings of the full Working Group. The initial report/white paper from the Working Group is expected to be presented at the June 2021 meeting of the BLC Board of Directors.

The Working Group also engages with the Heads of Resource Management Committee, AUL/AD, Access Services, Archives & Special Collections, Resource Sharing, and Technology COIs, as well as several external vendors and library consortia.


Membership in the Working Group is by nomination of the BLC Board of Directors. Participation from individual libraries was capped at two representatives. The group includes fourteen members from eleven member libraries plus one representative from the consortial office.

Kimberly Kowal, AUL for Digital Initiatives and Services, Boston College (C)

Mark Paris, AUL for Scholarly Resources and Discovery, Brandeis University (T)

Jen Walton, Director of Library Services, MBL; Co-Director, MBLWHOI Library, MBLWHOI (S)

Kim Kennedy, Digital Production Coordinator, Northeastern University (S)

Patrick Yott, Associate Dean, Northeastern University (T)

Judith Carlstrom, Head of Technical Services, State Library of Massachusetts (T)

Martha Kelehan, Assistant Director for Research and Learning, Tisch Library, Tufts University (C)

Erika McNeil, Head of Interlibrary Services, University of Connecticut (T)

*Michael Rodriguez, Collections Strategist, University of Connecticut (C)

Laura Quilter, Copyright and Information Policy Librarian, University of Massachusetts—Amherst (C)

Steve Smith, Collections Development Librarian, University of Massachusetts—Boston (C)

^Karen Bohrer, Director of Library Collections, Wellesley College (S)

*Nathan Mealey, AUL for Discovery and Access, Wesleyan University (T)

^Andrew White, University Librarian, Wesleyan University (S)

Charlie Barlow, Executive Director, Boston Library Consortium (S)


*          Co-Chairs

^           Board Liaisons

C          Copyright Sub-group

S          Scale Sub-group

T          Technology Sub-group