What is the Democracy’s Library?

Illustration created with MidJourney

Democracies require an educated citizenry to flourish– and because of this, Democratic governments, at all levels, spend billions of dollars publishing reports, manuals, books, videos so that all can read and learn. That is the good news.  The bad news is that in our digital age, much of this is not accessible.   Democracy’s Library aims to change this.   

The aim of the Internet Archive Democracy’s Library is to collect, preserve and make freely available all the published works of all the democracies– the federal, provincial, and municipal government publications– so that we can efficiently learn from each other to solve our biggest challenges in parallel and in concert.

Democracy’s Library is the foundational information of free people.

We call this “Democracy’s Library” because Democracy is an open system that trusts its citizens to learn, grow and have independent agency. Democratic governments publish openly because they want important information spread widely.  There are no paywalls to the works of government, or there shouldn’t be. 

We need access to all the River reports so we can help understand and manage our declining clean water.   Access to Agricultural research to help farm more sustainably.  To Materials research to build better products and devices. To Local hearings on project results so other cities can overcome the same challenges.  To Training materials and text books for many professions.   All free– and in ways you can find them.

Bringing free public access to the public domain is the opportunity of the Internet– an infrastructure that effectively costs nothing to distribute information that has been collected and organized.

Yes, this will cost a small fortune– but it is within our grasp– to collect and organize billions of documents and datasets, preserve the materials for the ages and make them available for many purposes.  While scoping projects in the United States and Canada have now begun, we estimate this project will cost at least $100 million dollars. The big money has not been committed yet, and we’re still fundraising. But to get things kicked off, Filecoin Foundation (FF) and Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web (FFDW), are supporting the project. The Internet Archive has ramped up collecting government websites and datasets as well as digitizing print materials with many library partners.

Thankfully, we do not have the rights and paywall problems that have been strangling the Internet’s best feature: an essentially free information distribution system.   

Democracy’s Library can be a free public library available on your phone and your laptop.  

Democracy’s Library will be the foundation of new services, both non-commercial and commercial, that leverages language understanding, machine learning, automatic translation, speech recognition, and visualizations.

Democracies publish openly– let’s take advantage of this.  Leverage our library system to not just lease commercial publisher’s database products, but build open collections that everyone can use and reuse without limitation.

Lets build direct conduits from governments into Democracy’s Library for long term preservation and access. A public-public partnership that long served us in the paper era, that took a pause in the mainframe era of commercial databases, can flourish again in the Internet era.  

“Public Access to the Public Domain” can be a rallying cry for Democracy’s Library.

Democracy’s Library can be a flowering of information services for free people.

Please join in and help.   Jamie Joyce of the Internet Archive (jamiejoyce@archive.org) is leading the effort in the United States, Andrea Mills of the Internet Archive Canada ( andrea@archive.org ) is leading the Canadian effort.  The project is overseen by Brewster Kahle ( brewster@archive.org ).   

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Have ideas?  Have materials?  Have a use case?  Have resources to bring to bear?   This can only happen if we work together.  

Let’s build Democracy’s Library, together.