Today, the MacArthur Foundation announced the finalists for its 100&Change competition, awarding a single organization $100 million to solve one of the world’s biggest problems. The Internet Archive’s Open Libraries project, one of eight semifinalists, did not make the cut to the final round. Today we want congratulate the 100&Change finalists and thank the MacArthur Foundation for inspiring us to think big. For the last 15 months, the Internet Archive team has been building the partnerships that can transform US libraries for the digital age and put millions of ebooks in the hands of more than a billion learners. We’ve collaborated with the world’s top copyright experts to clarify the legal framework for libraries to digitize and lend their collections. And we’ve learned an amazing amount from the leading organizations serving the blind and people with disabilities that impact reading.
To us, that feels like a win.
In the words of MacArthur Managing Director, Cecilia Conrad:
The Internet Archive project will unlock and make accessible bodies of knowledge currently located on library shelves across the country. The proposal for curation, with the selection of books driven not by commercial interests but by intellectual and cultural significance, is exciting. Though the legal theory regarding controlled digital lending has not been tested in the courts, we found the testimony from legal experts compelling. The project has an experienced, thoughtful and passionate team capable of redefining the role of the public library in the 21st Century.
So, the Internet Archive and our partners are continuing to build upon the 100&Change momentum. We are meeting October 11-13 to refine our plans, and we invite interested stakeholders to join us at the Library Leaders Forum. If you are a philanthropist interested in leveraging technology to provide more open access to information—well, we have a project for you.
For 20 years, at the Internet Archive we have passionately pursued one goal: providing universal access to knowledge. But there is almost a century of books missing from our digital shelves, beyond the reach of so many who need them. So we cannot stop. We now have the technology, the partners and the plan to transform library hard copies into digital books and lend them as libraries always have. So all of us building Open Libraries are moving ahead.
Remember: a century ago, Andrew Carnegie funded a vast network of public libraries because he recognized democracy can only exist when citizens have equal access to diverse information. Libraries are more important than ever, welcoming all of society to use their free resources, while respecting readers’ privacy and dignity. Our goal is to build an enduring asset for libraries across this nation, ensuring that all citizens—including our most vulnerable—have equal and unfettered access to knowledge.
Thank you, MacArthur Foundation, for inspiring us to turn that idea into a well thought-out project.
–The Open Libraries Team