How will blockchain impact libraries?

Blockchain essentially is a way of organizing information, and it is likely to be utilized in library information systems at some point in the future.

We’ll get to how, but first let’s start with a simple definition.

What is blockchain?

Let’s say there is a block containing data. On one side it has a cryptographic hash (aka “hash”), or a string of numbers that identifies that block. It is determined by a formula, and is a certain length. It is the block’s fingerprint – just like our fingerprints, it can not be duplicated.

The hash for the block never changes. The only way the hash changes is if the data within the block changes, essentially rendering it a different block. If you were to change the hash for the block, it would make it a different block than what you started with.

The block also has the hash for the previous block. This is how strings of data blocks are created. The blocks have to connect in a certain order and if they for some reason fall out of line with that, the block is no longer valid.

In blockchain mining, each node has to have consensus about the contents of each block. It’s a peer-to-peer network; there’s no “boss” so to speak who rules the blockchain.

Blockchain’s application to library information systems

How will blockchain impact libraries in the future? There are a variety of possible ways that blockchain could make libraries more operationally efficient.

Sandra Hirsch and Susan Alman, in an article by the American Library Association, specified three possible ways.

  • A universal library card system that is not geography dependent
  • Vouchers for international interlibrary loan requests
  • Ensuring the integrity of library record data

To learn more, check out Hirsch and Alman’s interview.

SOFA workshops for libraries

We offer complimentary workshops for libraries through Society for Financial Awareness (SOFA), a non-profit. They can be given either through Zoom or in person. Please see our topic list and contact us to arrange a workshop for your patrons.


Simple Explained. (2017, Nov 13th). How does a blockchain work – Simply Explained. YouTube. [Video].