January 24, 2021

Ensuring a sustainable future for libraries: Announcing Library Futures

We are proud to announce the launch of Library Futures Institute, a 501c3 organization fighting for the technology-positive future of libraries.

The Board chose the name “Library Futures” understanding that our organization will work to ensure a sustainable future for libraries in the modern digital environment where our users live, work, and learn. 

Our libraries and their promise of uplift and transformation are facing a threat to their continued existence. As our society moves into an increasingly digital landscape, libraries have built significant collections that have become inaccessible, unaffordable, or worse, subject to limitations striking at the very ability for a library to loan books to patrons. The significant legal and financial value of a collection, and the library's role in providing continual access to the collection, has been diminished by restrictive licensing, unscrupulous pricing, or an outright refusal to sell works to libraries. These policies directly impact the library's right to lend, copy, and preserve materials for the future.

Without access to digital resources and digital books, libraries will not be able to continue to meet the needs of patrons. Libraries already struggle to provide access to digital resources. Market shifts have resulted in a handful of publishing entities who use highly restrictive licenses designed to lock down information rather than facilitate access to it. The true impact of these policies has become terribly clear during the pandemic as users have been cut off from access to collections.

Library Futures will safeguard our libraries' right to provide free and open access to information to all citizens, a critical aspect of democratic process. Crucially, guiding the public in an increasingly complicated information landscape is a primary mechanism through which libraries can support the public good. Scholars like Joan Donovan assert that “hiring 10,000 librarians'' will fix our media landscape – those librarians will need access to high-quality, reasonably priced, and well-preserved materials. The future of our culture and knowledge depends on this. 

We are dedicated to ensuring that libraries will continue to provide open, non-discriminatory access to information to benefit the general learning, research, and intellectual enrichment of the public.

The work of the Library Futures Institute will also advance a research and programmatic agenda that strengthens the rights of libraries,  including working toward ownership of digital works through the adoption of less restrictive licensing agreements for e-media and e-books. New licenses should allow libraries to own digital works with the same associated rights as print materials. This change would empower, not challenge, the library’s mission to promote access to knowledge, culture, and literature.

The people who are involved with the Library Futures Institute – our Board, our Executive Director, our volunteers, our donors, and our future partners (like you!) - are keenly aware of the inequity in access to information. Immigrant communities, low-income families, and people living without internet access have the most at stake in this fight. Our communities do not have the resources to pay top-dollar for access to digital books at a premium, and will be unable to access the information and resources they need for school, work, and general learning. 

That awareness infuses every aspect of our work, from our future Catalyst Fund, to library-focused programming, and our support for digital lending.

We are excited to launch today and partner with libraries, academic institutions, foundations, consortia, non-profits, and others, to enhance Library Futures’ mission.

And Library Futures will work for all libraries - public, private, school, media, digital – to uphold our mission and values.

We believe in the promise of libraries. We believe that access to information can uplift and edify society. We are also committed to preserving works for future generations. And we believe technology, used appropriately, can play an important part in saving a library mission and values.

Together, we can change the paradigm. Together, we are Library Futures.

Board of Library Futures Institute

Kyle K. Courtney, Chair

Meikle Hall

Jill Hurst-Wahl

Heather Joseph

Tucker Taylor

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