The Library Leaders Forum is an annual opportunity for the libraries community to come together and discuss the 21st-century library. This year’s virtual Forum ended last week with an inspiring session showcasing the impact of controlled digital lending. Let’s look back over some of the key moments from the session and the conference as a whole.
During the final session, we were honored to present Michelle Wu with our Hero Award for her foundational work on controlled digital lending. COVID-19 demonstrated more than ever the power of this key practice in helping libraries reach vulnerable communities. As the election approaches, the emphasis was also on the role of digital access in supporting democracy. “Reliable access to information is the great equalizer,” Wu said in her acceptance speech.
The power of digital tools was demonstrated further during the session with the grand reopening of Marygrove College Library. Despite the closure of the college, the library’s valuable collection of social justice scholarship has started a new life online. The materials are now freely available on our website, showcasing the power of digitization for preserving knowledge and expanding access. If you missed the session, you can watch the recording or read a full recap.
The conference was packed with insight into the impact of controlled digital lending on libraries and the communities they serve. In our policy session, experts discussed how to build a healthy information ecosystem for the 21st Century. Our community session gave a platform to librarians, educators, and technologists who are developing next-generation library tools.
The discussions showed a library community deeply committed to digital innovation and its potential for creating a more equal society. A key theme was how COVID-19 lockdowns have made librarians more aware of the necessity of digital lending. The practice, always useful in reaching communities who cannot access physical books, has been shown a powerful tool in emergency response. Practitioners also placed emphasis on the key role of digitization in archiving knowledge for future generations.
However, it was clear that this is no time for complacency. Librarians face threats that would damage their ability to make knowledge accessible and preserve it for cultural posterity. A new lawsuit challenges their right to digitize collections and make them available to the public. Combined with an increasing lack of shelf space and spates of library closures, this could mean that many valuable collections end up in landfill.
The community is determined to make sure that libraries stay “open” to all. To this end, we have launched the #EmpoweringLibraries campaign, which defends the right of libraries to own and lend digital books. Although the Forum has ended, the community will stay united through campaign activities.
We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part and helped make the Library Leaders Forum a great success. Find out how you can stay connected and protect the key role of libraries in a democratic society here.