This year’s virtual Library Leaders Forum focuses on empowering libraries and the communities they serve through digital lending. The first session sparked important discussions around the role of libraries in providing free and equal access to knowledge in a democratic society.
Moderator and Internet Archive policy counsel Lila Bailey summed up the urgency and relevance of the issue: “Our country is struggling to find a common set of facts. The truth often lives behind paywalls while misinformation and disinformation go viral. Equal access to information is foundational to our democratic society and it’s part of why libraries exist.” Panelists discussed how digital lending can act as a key tool in providing equal access to information, the threats it is currently facing from certain publishing practices, and potential solutions such as copyright law reform and increased arts funding. You can read a recap of the discussion or watch the full recording.
In addition to the panel discussion, the session involved two exciting announcements. First, the power of digitization for democratizing access to important texts was demonstrated with the digital release to the public of a rare oration by Frederik Douglass, an influential text in the history of anti-slavery movements. Second, we were pleased to announce that Michelle Wu will receive the Internet Archive Hero Award on October 20 for her pioneering work on controlled digital lending. The practice has been key in the response of libraries to Covid-19 lockdowns, enabling them to continue providing digital access to learning throughout the pandemic for those who need it most.
Our next session on October 13 will build on these announcements and the first session’s discussion points by exploring the community of practice that has emerged around controlled digital lending. We’ll hear from librarians, educators, and technologists who are developing next-generation library tools that incorporate and build upon the practice. We’ll also learn more about how Internet Archive’s controlled digital lending environment works in practice, with demonstrations from our engineering team.
The session will provide useful knowledge-sharing for library practitioners who wish to expand their digital practices, and look to the future of controlled digital lending as a crucial and evolving tool in a democratic society. The focus will be on maintaining and expanding our community of practice, a key resource in developing digital tools that allow us to better serve the public. A strong community is more important now than ever as digital lending practices are increasingly under threat and the age-old role of libraries in society is challenged in a new law suit. There’s still time to register for the session for free; you can also follow us on Twitter for live updates.
We’re looking forward to hearing more from the community of practitioners who are dedicated to developing a digital library landscape that supports and furthers democracy, equality and representation. Given the urgency of the issues discussed and the current threat to controlled digital lending, it’s important that the discussion leads to action. To this end, the Forum marks the beginning of the #EmpoweringLibraries campaign, an opportunity for us all to come together to keep knowledge accessible for everyone. We hope to see many of you at Tuesday’s session to further discuss the importance of controlled digital lending for a functioning democracy where knowledge does not live behind paywalls.