Open Libraries Forum: recap & reflection

On October 18 more than 50 library leaders from across the U.S. and Canada joined us at our headquarters in San Francisco for our Open Libraries Forum.  We’ve been holding an annual forum for more than ten years, using the opportunity to bring together thought leaders from across library communities and cultural heritage organizations to envision a digital future for our collections and services.  

This year we focused specifically on advancing the Open Libraries program, and its vision of digitizing four million modern books.  Discussions focused on the legal and operational issues related to delivering digital books and services for the print disabled community; integrating our controlled digital lending service with emerging ebook platforms and consortia; and building a digital library that is widely used, frequently cited, and representative of the diverse voices in our communities.  To learn more about the discussions, we’ve assembled the breakout reports given at the end of the day in a publicly available Google Doc


As the Director of Open Libraries, I learned a tremendous amount from the participants about how Open Libraries can be used in their institutions, and the needs they have in communicating the value of Open Libraries to their stakeholders, peers, and patrons.  Given time to reflect on the day in full, I’ve summarized four main takeaways:

Get the word out

    • We need to continue promoting Open Libraries through education, marketing, and investing in communities.
  • We should provide FAQs, tools, and training to help libraries and users get the most out of Open Libraries.

Invest in our partnerships

    • We need to be at the meetings where likely adopters gather, and collaborate with partners we need for service integration.
    • We need to be very clear about what services and features are on offer.
    • We should use steering groups and existing networks as two-way methods for communication.
  • We should use inclusion as a lens on all aspects of Open Libraries by investing in and partnering with underrepresented communities.

Learn from our users

    • We need to understand who our users are & their research/reading needs (collections as well as tools).
    • We need fewer switches between platforms and services to provide a coherent experience for our patrons.
  • We need analytics of what’s being used in an environment that respects reader privacy.

Enhance our tools

    • We need tools for communities and institutions to customize ways of viewing content in Open Libraries, as well as to sort and find content by format, subject, theme, and institution.
    • We need tools that encourage libraries to participate by solving existing problems—to improve operations (such as managing waitlists), to collaborate in collection development, and to enable community curation.
  • We need greater visibility of what APIs are available and how to consume machine-readable data from Open Libraries.

Open Libraries & you

If you are a librarian who is interested in learning how Open Libraries can benefit your patrons, please visit:

If you are a reader or researcher who is looking for free access to digital books, please view our Open Libraries collections at:

For additional information or questions, please reach out to me via email.