Project Summary & Upcoming Activities: MOOC, Webinars, Further Investigation


Blockchain and Decentralization for the Information Industries  Massive Open Online Course

The MOOC program at the San José State University School Information brings individuals from diverse backgrounds and geographic regions together in an interactive online learning environment to explore the latest trends in the information professions.

MOOC participants do not earn college credit. The open online course is available to the public for free as professional development learning experience.


Course Description

The Blockchain and Decentralization for the Information Industries MOOC will introduce the technologies behind Blockchain, outline guidelines for how and where Blockchain might be used within the information professions, discuss other related emerging systems, and generally make participants more capable of critically evaluating claims and services regarding Blockchain.


The Blockchain MOOC will begin on Monday, March 11, 2019, and end on Sunday, April 21, 2019. The six-week course will cover topics, including:

  • Overview and history of Blockchain
  • Standards, legalities, security
  • Related Blockchain-like systems, decentralization
  • Limits of the technology, ethical concerns, new types of proofs
  • Use cases in public libraries, academic libraries, museums, archives
  • Future directions

Blockchain Project Summary

Blockchain: The Path Forward for Libraries and the Information Professions

It is clear from the expanding literature that blockchain technology is a trend on the brink of revolutionizing the public and private sectors. There have been conferences, books, white papers, start-ups, and numerous back-channel discussions on ways blockchain technology can be applied to various organizational procedures and processes, but librarians have not been evidenced in these mainstream discussions. However, the use of blockchain technology in libraries is on the radar of many information professionals who are curious about or understand its disruptive potential.

Drs. Sandy Hirsh and Sue Alman of the San José State University School of Information, were awarded a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to investigate blockchain technology in order to gain a better understanding of the ways blockchain applications could be implemented in libraries to better serve their communities. Technology experts representing libraries, blockchain development and urban planning were selected to address the issues surrounding blockchain applications within the information professions.  These experts participated in each of the three projects that were developed with the IMLS grant funding: 

The presentations and discussions focused on the need for the profession to consider many issues that impact blockchain implementation in libraries.  The complex issues of developing standards, understanding the legal ramifications, and establishing security protocols are detailed on the SJSU iSchool blockchain website and will be expanded in the forthcoming book of the ALA Library Futures Series, Blockchain, available in spring 2019.

However, librarians must engage in serious dialogs within our profession and with other blockchain developers and users to make sound decisions for the future. One of the first steps is to ensure that our current professionals and students have an accurate understanding of how blockchain works and the benefits that can be derived from its use in libraries.   

Several blockchain applications or use cases that have the most practical and immediate impact are: ILL for fee management using the voucher model with crypto currency for micro payments across libraries; credentialing/badges for self-sovereign identity; community-based collections that extend library-like services for sharing objects, tools, expertise; and securing ways to track digital provenance.

The experts’ executive summaries provide a rich context for possible applications of blockchain technologies in libraries.  Two of LITA President Bohyun Kim’s suggestions encouraged the profession to consider the kind of data and records that need to be stored and preserved exactly the way they were created and the implementation costs.  John Bracken, DPLA executive director, suggested that the profession explore the ways that blockchain could be used to archive social media and the documentation and evaluation of news.

Path Forward

The discussions led the experts to agree on several major recommendations for moving forward: 

  • Educate the public and information professionals about blockchain technologies;
  • Create opportunities for people to experiment with blockchain;
  • Work with other interested parties to develop a library pilot project for one or more blockchain use cases.

Currently we are identifying 2-3 micro-projects  for testing in order to move from awareness to activity or proof-of-concept to full implementation.  Three of the micro-projects identified are:

  • Ill and voucher system
  • Universal Library Card
  • Credentialing

Ideas for other micro-projects and suggestions for potential funders should be sent to:


You can take the conversation on the road or prepare for the blockchain revolution with some professional development at any number of tech and blockchain-themed conferences happening throughout the U.S. and worldwide. The following are just a few past and future conferences to be aware of for those who plan to delve deeper into the subject.

Upcoming Activities

  • 6-week MOOC, Blockchain & Decentralization for the Information Industries, sponsored by the SJSU School of Information with funding from IMLS scheduled from March 11 – April 21 (enrollment beginning on 2/11)
  • “Blockchain: An Investigation of Possible Library Applications” Drs. Sandy Hirsh and Sue Alman. International Conference on ‘Changing Landscape of Science & Technology Libraries’ (CLSTL 2019) to be held at IIT Gandhinagar (India) during 28th Feb -2nd March, 2019
  • “Blockchain Possibilities: Investigation Findings” Drs. Sandy Hirsh and Sue Alman. Special Libraries Association Webinar. March 20, 2019. 
  •  “Blockchain: Transforming the Technological Future,” ALA Annual Conference, LITA, June 22, 2019.

Project Conferences

Library 2.018 Recordings of the Blockchain Applied: Impact on the Information Profession June 7, 2018 available on YouTube.

See Blockchain National Forum Project for details.

Link to Blockchain National Forum Recording – 

Link to Executive Summaries


Past Conferences

Beyond Bitcoin: What is Blockchain and What Will It Mean for Law Librarians? November 2017, Online

“Game Changer” The Future of Blockchain Digital Money — November 2017, Washington, DC

Internet of Things Tech Expo and Blockchain Expo — November 2017, Santa Clara

Blockchain Expo – November 2017, Santa Clara

The Blockchain & Libraries – December 7

World Blockchain Forum — September 2017, London

The Business of Blockchain Summit – October 10, 2017, Atlanta

IoT Security Summit — October 2017, New York City

Other learning opportunities

Blockchain Events in Bay Area