Investigation Digs into Blockchain Technology Benefits for Information Centers


Faculty members from the San José State University School of Information will host a national forum in summer 2018 to discuss how libraries can effectively utilize blockchain technology with a grant awarded to the San José State University Research Foundation.

Drs. Sandra Hirsh and Sue Alman are the principal investigators for the $100,000 Institute of Museum and Library Services grant project.

“The idea for ways that blockchain technology could be used by libraries came about after hearing a presentation at the (2016) SXSW EDU conference. The speaker, Jane McGonigal of the Institute for the Future, got us thinking about how libraries and information centers provide entry points to the digital world,” Alman said.

“When walking into a library or information center, you may find robots, makerspaces with 3D printers, collaborative areas, augmented reality apps, and access to an array of digital materials. Technology enables 21st century information professionals to broaden our impact within the community and around the world.”

For example, researchers point to a number of different possible applications that information professionals may be able to adopt and benefit from blockchain technology, such as:

  • Support community-based collections;
  • Build an enhanced metadata system for libraries and data centers;
  • Protect Digital First Sale rights;
  • Connect to a network of libraries/universities;
  • Host digital peer-to-peer sharing;
  • Facilitate partnerships across centers/organizations;
  • Reexamine expectations for ways public libraries contribute to city service;
  • Award badges for skills training.

A dedicated website and blog have been created as part of the research project where visitors can learn about blockchain basics and discuss ways in which the technology can be used to advance the role of libraries in serving global communities.

Information professionals can also participate in the Library 2.018 free web conference, “Blockchain Applied: Impact on the Information Profession,” scheduled for June 7, 2018. The call for proposals will open in early 2018. To get involved in the National Forum on Blockchain Technology, email

Funding for the research project, “Investigation of Possible Uses of Blockchain Technology by Libraries-Information Centers to Support City-Community Goals,” is made possible by the FY2017 National Leadership Grants for Libraries Program award from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (LG-98-17-0209-17). To learn more, visit