AMA about OpenLibraries–our proposal for MacArthur’s 100&Change

Live Chat on YouTube Live, Thursday, June 15 from 10-11:30 a.m. PT


Brewster Kahle, Founder and Digital Librarian
Wendy Hanamura, Director of Partnerships
John Gonzalez, Director of Engineering

What would it mean if you had easy online access to 4 million modern books–the equivalent of a great public or university library?  What would that mean for the print disabled and those unable to reach their public libraries? How would that change innovation and scholarship? In an era of misinformation, how can we tie information to the published works of humankind?

Those are some of the questions we’ve been asking ourselves at the Internet Archive as we hone our plans for Open Libraries–our proposal to the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change competition to tackle one of the world’s toughest problems. We are now one of eight semifinalists vying for $100 million grant to carry out our goal: democratizing access to knowledge by providing free, long-term access to a digital library of 4 million modern books. We call our project Open Libraries because we want to help every library in the nation to provide its members with digital access to its rich collections.

The Internet Archive, working with library and accessibility partners, has a plan to bring 4 million books online, through purchase or digitization, starting with the 20th century books missing from our digital shelves. Our plan includes at-scale circulation of these e-books, enabling libraries owning the physical works to lend digital copies to their patrons. Working with our accessibility partners, we will also make this collection available to the print disabled around the world.  And our team of curators will help make sure we create an inclusive, diverse collection of 20th century texts.

We now have the technology and legal frameworks to transform our library system by 2023 to provide more democratic access to knowledge–for library patrons, scholars, students and the print disabled.

We want to hear what you think.  Help us hone our plans, test our hypotheses, and dream big!

Ask us a question or post an idea in the comments below. We will answer them during our YouTube Live.  Or tweet us using #OpenLibrariesAMA.

19 thoughts on “AMA about OpenLibraries–our proposal for MacArthur’s 100&Change

    1. Wendy Hanamura Post author

      Thanks Mihai! We’d love to answer any questions and invite you to share your ideas on this audacious project.

  1. Tara Carlisle

    Are you planning to collaborate with Digital Public Library of America? As you know, they have amassed a collection of (16+ million) secondary and primary sources and have partnered with hundreds of partners (our university being one). They have done a great job of engaging the K-12 community and they’re in the process redesigning their UI. Would it be possible to build on each other’s strengths?

  2. Puro Cedeno

    You are bringing the dreams alive of those Alexandria library founders in the old times. Be the lighthouse of knowledge that let us trespass the darkness.

  3. Sedra

    This is a great idea.
    I live in San Diego. Our public libraries were linked to area universities via something called “Link+”. This has been decoupled though, we still are linked to the UC and CSU systems (thank goodness). It is really a great resource. However access to research journals and primary sources of raw data is not open.

    I was wondering if there might be a time frame after which journal articles effectively become opened up for public access (I mean we do pay for the research generally.) In which case could primary research journals be a category for open archive? Already there are open access journals and open access articles. Why not: 1) become a repository for published creation of information (i.e. scholarly research articles) and 2) help drive open access in this domain. By analogy I believe after 5 years data becomes non-proprietary to the data collector. It seems to me the same logic could be applied articles in journals.

  4. daniel heide

    As a dream, (trying to think big) I imagine every child in the classroom with a personal computer, searching the Internet for some of the four million books. I imagine teachers that teach kids how to investigate a subject, how to look into Internet for further sources, how to write a small paper, etc. Thats how I see education in this century.
    In some countries like mine, we dont have neihborhood public libraries, so the access to this fabulous archive must take place in public schools (and private of course).

  5. Steve Myers

    A great County library that is an example is Stark County District Library (Ohio) at I live in another state, yet they permit you to hold a library card for electronic access. They offer databases, e-books, videos and much more. This library is a model of providing high-tech choices including a loan of technical equipment for the home.

    Another free card library is located in Philadelphia, Pa at

  6. Ivy West

    What a tremendous idea! How may curators external to the Internet Archive get involved? I see above this is a national endeavor, will this initiative expand and include libraries oversees?

    I look forward to learning more details and will follow up with additional questions.

  7. Lorna Findlay

    I am so excited by this venture! I am a uni student and often have trouble accessing free sources
    Good luck

  8. Dereje Sahile

    I appreciate your “The Internet Archive” institution that motivates for young scholars like me to working with documentation, digitaization of Mss, library and accessibility and also relating areas. I personaly interested on this area of fields as successful professional & developing experiances.

  9. hannegaby

    This Open Libraries project will create the library of the future: accessible, affordable and achievable. And it will change people’s lives. I am very grateful!!!!

  10. Jordan Michow

    Hi there,

    Would you mind to send me a copy of records for “NOBILARIO HENRIQUE HENRIQUES DE NORONHA” Records are in Biblioteca Municipal do Funchal, Madeira, Portugal.
    I’m a history researcher and together with my colleague, Manuel Rosa, have succeeded in providing many undeniable facts concerning Christopher Columb, unknown till nowadays

    Tx in advance.

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