After months of planning, the Library Futures Institute officially launched this week, a new 501c3 organization chartered to fight for a “technology-positive future” for libraries—including broader access to e-books and other digital content.
According to a blog post on the group’s site, the Library Futures Institute will seek to “advance a research and programmatic agenda” 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.” Among the group's priorities will be to advocate for “less restrictive licensing agreements for e-media and e-books” and for policies and licenses that would enable libraries to continue to fulfill the traditional roles libraries have played in the analog world in the digital space.
“Our libraries and their promise of uplift and transformation are facing a threat to their continued existence,” reads the group's launch announcement. “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 Library Futures Institute launches with the support of several organizations, including the Authors Alliance, the Boston Public Library, Creative Commons, EveryLibrary, Fight for the Future, the Internet Archive, Public Knowledge, ReadersFirst, SPARC, and the Special Libraries Association.
Jennie Rose Halperin will serve as the group’s executive director. Most recently Halperin served as assistant director for Outreach and Community Engagement at the Harvard Law School Library, and previously served as a senior communications manager for Creative Commons, and a product engagement manager for Safari Books Online/O'Reilly Media.
The Library Futures Institute launch comes at an important moment for libraries, with digital lending hitting record levels and libraries depending more than ever on digital lending to serve their communities in the wake of the pandemic.
Further, the Internet Archive is currently being sued by a group of major publishers over its decade old program to scan and lend PDF copies of library books. Notably, the Library Futures Institute's five-member board is chaired by Kyle Courtney, copyright advisor and program manager at the Harvard Library Office for Scholarly Communication and a strong advocate for controlled digital lending, the legal theory that underpins the Internet Archive's program to scan and lend library books which is now being challenged in court by publishers.