A coalition of advocacy and public interest groups has joined forces to launch the Library Futures Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) committed to upholding the right of libraries to provide users with materials in the new digital environment.
The new organization launched its website on January 25 and will work to empower libraries to fulfill their mission of providing equal and equitable access to culture for the public good.
“We need to preserve the significant value of library collections that benefit learning, research, intellectual enrichment of the public — but in the digital space,” said Kyle K. Courtney, board chair of Library Futures, and a copyright advisor and program manager at the Harvard Library Office for Scholarly Communication. “Libraries have been a fundamental part of worldwide access to knowledge.”
The pandemic has underscored the urgency for libraries to transform to the digital age, Courtney said. The need for libraries to be able to provide digital material is a consumer issue that Library Futures hopes will gain traction with the broader public. “We are hoping to win hearts and minds to effectuate change,” Courtney said.
Library Futures was triggered by the challenge that libraries face accessing digital materials from publishers. Libraries have long co-existed with publishers and are trustworthy partners, but there has been a shift in the relationship in the digital world, Courtney said. Library Futures will advocate for less-restrictive licensing agreements for e-content, content ownership and stewardship, broad digital access for the public, and implementing the practice of Controlled Digital Lending (CDL), where patrons can borrow one secure digital copy of a book for every print book that a library owns.
Executive Director of Library Futures Jennie Rose Halperin says it’s critical for libraries to stand up from a position of strength to assert the role that libraries have in society.
“When you think about the power of the internet – to have any piece of information at your fingertips is amazing. And yet, the ways publishing captures knowledge globally means that dream cannot be realized,” said Halperin, who has worked as a librarian and digital strategist for Creative Commons and Harvard University Law School. “I believe libraries play a crucial and unique role in changing that paradigm.”
The agenda for Library Futures will include awareness building, education, outreach, and advocacy.
The Internet Archive is among the initial coalition partners supporting Library Futures. Others include: Authors Alliance, Boston Public Library, Creative Commons, EveryLibrary, Public Knowledge, Readers First, SPARC, and Special Libraries Association.
“I care about libraries lending, purchasing and preserving materials,” said Halperin. “As a coalition and advocacy organization, Library Futures is positioned to bring together organizations into conversation with libraries, archives, museums and the entire cultural heritage community to effectuate change.”
As part of its initial public programming, on February 10 Library Futures will co-host a panel discussion with the Internet Archive focused on dispelling myths about Controlled Digital Lending. Registration for the webinar is free and open to the public.