Libraries: Society’s Great Equalizer

Looking for a trusted source of information? For millions of citizens there’s only one place to head: their local library—society’s great equalizer, where Wi-Fi, computers, and knowledge are offered for free, to anyone entering the door. Yet, for many library patrons, actually walking through the doors is a real barrier to getting the information they need. And while the US population grows more diverse, the books on our library shelves have not.

Working with libraries nationwide, Open Libraries will curate, digitize and preserve diverse collections and help libraries greatly expand their digital holdings. In 2013, ebooks comprised an average of 17% of U.S. public libraries collections; we can turn 80% of library collections digital by 2023. We’ll build a financially sustainable infrastructure for at-scale ebook circulation so US libraries that own the hardcopy can offer their patrons temporary digital access, just like loaning a book.

We have a rare opportunity to shape digital collections serving communities that are increasingly diverse. In 2015, 50% of newborn US babies were children of color, yet over a twenty-year span, on average only 10% of children’s books contained multicultural content. Because our library shelves can and must be as diverse as our readers, we will curate inclusive content.

I work where I don’t have ready access to a public library, and I don’t have the funds to buy the books that I really want to read, so your initiative provides the much-desired availability of old, treasured works and new interesting reading material that I crave. I am much happier and life is much more convenient for me because of you and all of the good work that you do.
Robert Tuttle, Internet Archive Patron
  • 2.7M books digitized
  • 1492 contributing libraries
  • 1.2M books lent in 2017
Our small library is endeavoring to convert as much of its holdings to electronic form as possible, and often we find our documents already scanned in
Oliva Pickett, Internet Archive patron

John Szabo

City Librarian of LA

John Szabo oversees the 73 branches of the Los Angeles Public Library system, serving 1.2 million people, including every LA public school student. He says through Open Libraries, “we can democratize the stream of eBooks to include not just what’s popular, but what’s important.”