The recently published ACE Education Blockchain Initiative study, Connected Impact: Unlocking Education and Workforce Opportunity Through Blockchain, resonates strongly with the results of an on-going investigation at the San Jose State University School of Information that was originally funded by IMLS.
The results of our project provided clear directives for a continued investigation to reach the next stage of maturity by developing and piloting blockchain models that can scale for libraries and enhance information literacy and digital inclusion efforts through expanded innovative collaborations. While we have a strong vision for potential use cases, the most compelling blockchain project is in close alignment with several of the themes identified in the ACE report. Lifelong Learning, Verifiable Credentials, and the Digital Divide are at the core of our next proposed project. As noted in the ACE report:
It is critical to remember that not all Americans have access to the Internet or technology. According to the Pew Research Center, 29 percent of Americans do not own smartphones. Forty-four percent do not have broadband services, and 46 percent do not have a computer (Anderson and Kumar 2019). Before distributed ledger technologies have the potential to advance social equity, everyone needs to be online or have access to the tools they need to participate.
As part of the information professions our partners represent urban public libraries, state library systems, academic institutions, and other related associations and organizations. These groups support the use of technology to identify all potential library users–both credentialed and non-credentialed–and provide unencumbered access to resources for them.
The goal of our proposed two-tiered project is to provide unencumbered access to digital content and print collections to all potential users in participating library systems while managing risk to ensure that the privacy and personal identity of each user is secure. Societal changes have created groups of people who are away from their residency on a permanent or temporary basis due to homelessness, statelessness, employment (business-related or seasonal work) or travel, and access to information as provided by libraries needs to move with these individuals.
“Although public libraries pride themselves on being free and open to all, transferring privileges between agencies is often too cumbersome for individuals to find worth pursuing and often results in a loss of library users. Furthermore, the experience of obtaining a library card or establishing reciprocal borrowing often varies between agencies, creating unnecessary friction for the public. When we lose users as they move from place to place, libraries lose the opportunity to strengthen a national brand as the trusted source for reliable information in the digital age.” (Veronda Pitchford, Califa)
People of all ages who are homeless, transient, immigrants, displaced, or away from their usual home base need all types of information resources that include support for literacy, community integration, new skill development, employment services/credentials, research, disaster relief, and entertainment. Libraries can provide services to these communities that they cannot obtain anywhere else; however, in most instances these individuals cannot obtain a library card and are ineligible to take materials out of the library. This problem can be resolved through the use of an interoperable blockchain-based system that crosses all types of library systems and a secure verified digital identity that can be used in participating libraries to gain access to information. Information literacy and digital inclusion efforts will be enhanced as users gain access to all resources in those libraries through the creation of their secure and private digital identity.
We applaud the research and findings of the ACE investigative report, and we welcome ideas and potential partners for our pilot project.
Sandy Hirsh, Associate Dean, Academics
College of Professional and Global Education
San Jose State University
Sue Alman, Lecturer
San Jose State University
 Investigation of Possible Uses of Blockchain Technology by Libraries-Information Centers to Support City-Community Goals (Proposal Number. LG-98-17-0209)
 Sovereign Identity (SSI) is used to describe an individual or organization that has sole ownership and control of their digital and analog identities.