IMLS Grant – Blockchain Investigation

Investigation of Possible Uses of Blockchain Technology by Libraries-Information Centers to Support City-Community Goals ( LG-98-17-0209-17)


The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) National Leadership Grants program awarded funding for a project focusing on the potential uses of
blockchain technology that can extend library services to meet the needs of communities. The San José State University (SJSU) School of Information (iSchool) is the lead applicant with PIs, Sandra Hirsh and Susan Alman, and an advisory committee consisting of members associated with organizations that support libraries and information centers through education, research, programs, and services. These individuals have served as an advisory team to develop a project that will explore the ways blockchain technology can be used by libraries in partnership with community organizations.

The Project

Blockchain technology has the potential to enhance the role played by libraries within their communities, however, there are many questions yet to be answered about how specifically blockchain technology might be used and how much value it would add to library services and the communities they serve. The San José State University School of Information (iSchool) is poised to take a leadership role to investigate ways that blockchain technology can be used by libraries as a community anchor to partner with other organizations and to support city/community goals.

The year-long project will provide three opportunities for a national dialog among technical experts in libraries, blockchain technology, and urban planning and members of the information professions to discuss ways that blockchain technology can advance library services to support city/community goals.

1. Develop a project website and blog that will include information and resources about blockchain technology, potential uses of blockchain technology by libraries, and project updates along with a blog to foster open dialog. (Scheduled from November 2017 – September 2018.)
2. National Forum comprised of 20-30 technical experts in libraries, blockchain technology, and urban planning to identify and discuss key opportunities for libraries to serve as community anchors using blockchain technology. (Scheduled for mid-2018.)
3. Host a Library 2.018 conference, Blockchain Applied: Impact on the Information Profession, that will focus on Blockchain Technology as a Community Anchor. Registration in this open online conference is free to the profession and public. The June Library 2.018 conference will include sessions that will be discussed at the national forum and provide opportunities for input from conference participants. (Scheduled on June 7, 2018.)

The resulting commentary from the blog, national forum, and conference will be evaluated and included in the project’s final report. The report and the project findings will be available on the Project Website and disseminated at professional conference presentations beginning in summer 2018. The
recommendations will serve as a guide for both large and small, urban and rural libraries to implement blockchain technology or consider other directions.

The Advisory Committee members are: 

  • Miguel Figueroa – Executive Director, ALA Center for the Future of Libraries
  • Jason Griffey – Fellow, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University
  • H. Ryan Hess – Palo Alto City Library, Library Services Manager, Digital Initiatives
  • Brendan Howley – Federation of Ontario Public Libraries, Project Lead OpenMediaDesk (OMD)
  • Amy Garner – The Aspen Institute, Director, Dialogue on Public Libraries
  • Christinger Tomer – Associate Professor, University of Pittsburgh, School of Computing & Information
  • Alessandro Voto – Consensys West, Regional Director
  • Nader Afzalan – Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Redlands, the Chair of the American Planning Association (APA)-Technology Division, and the Co-Chair of the APA- Smart Cities and Sustainability Taskforce

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