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Blockchain and the Information Professions

Introduction, Speculative Applications, and Research Materials

Overview

In 2017 the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awarded the San José State University School of Information with a $100,000 grant to investigate possible applications of blockchain in libraries. Two years later the undertaking, led by Drs. Sandra Hirsh and Sue Alman, has resulted in a dedicated website and blog, a conference and national forum, a massive open online course (MOOC), conference papers and webinars, a major book publication, this LibGuide, and more. The tabs below spotlight several of these projects.

The Blockchain and Decentralization for the Information Industries MOOC was offered in the spring of 2019 and introduced participants to the technologies behind blockchain, its possible uses within the information professions, related blockchain-like systems, some ethical concerns, and the limitations of the technology. The course was taught by Jason Griffey, an affiliate for metaLAB at Harvard, who has been researching, writing, and speaking about blockchain and decentralized technologies since 2015. Though the MOOC has formally ended, its content is publicly available here.

Blockchains for the Information Profession 
A dedicated website and blog have been created where visitors can follow research developments and discuss ways in which the technology can be used to advance the role of libraries in serving global communities. The site includes a curated selection of links to articles and abstracts, and is designed for newcomers as well as people with an advanced knowledge of the topic.

The Blockchain National Forum was held in San José, California on August 6th, 2018 and featured presentations and panel discussions by leading experts on how the information profession might apply blockchain technology to its various sites of work. Topics ranged from urban planning and community-based collections to credentialing and provenance, and the day’s proceedings were live-streamed with participants submitting questions and comments in real time. Each speaker’s executive summary has been archived and made available at the Blockchains for the Information Profession site.

Slides from a later Hirsh and Alman webinar review major findings from the event and offer recommendations.