Human progress, innovation and creativity depends on being able to access, share and build on existing knowledge and ideas. Libraries have long been at the heart of delivering this.

Yet libraries’ role in promoting openness and sharing has evolved over recent years. As well as being responsible for buying books and journals from others and making them available, they also manage and make available archival collections, develop their own content, help individuals and researchers to create new works, and collaborate to manage knowledge between institutions and across borders.

In parallel, over the last sixteen years, the Creative Commons movement has pursued the same objective of promoting openness and sharing by giving writers and other creators the tools to make it clear that their works are available for use and re-use. Creative Commons licences, by challenging the ‘all rights reserved’ premise of traditional licences, offer an alternative to the often restrictive terms traditionally placed on books and articles under copyright regimes. There are already over 1.2 billion works issued made available in this way.

In a workshop organised at the Creative Commons Global Summit in Toronto, from 28-30 April 2017, IFLA set out the diverse work and roles of libraries, end engaged with participants who offered their own experience and ideas. The need for consistency in the way rights are given to use or re-use works was clear. So too was the need to build confidence and understanding around usage rights. IFLA’s presentation is available here.

IFLA spoke alongside Centrum Cyfrowe, who explored the potential to measure the impact of making collections open. The positive impact of openness is a driving theme in the work of libraries too, with much of their contribution to society built on giving people access to works which would otherwise be locked away or out of reach.

The coming months will provide a valuable opportunity to continue exploring, alongside creative commons and others, how we can build a fair and sustainable information environment.