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Advantage Blockchain Technology for the Libraries
Vysakh. C* & Dr. Rajendra Babu. H†
Libraries of the 20th century are interlocked with technologies. Blockchain is a
relatively new technology which acts as a core system for bitcoin operations and
many other technology oriented operations. Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency is first
introduced in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto which acts as a digital token for online
transactions (Hoy, 2017). Apart from the currency market, blockchain also finds
numerous applications in other domains. The transition from blockchain 1.0 to
blockchain 3.0 widens the applications of blockchain essentially to academia, arts,
health, science, literacy, medicine and so.on (Chen, Xu, Lu, & Chen, 2018).
Picture: 1 Casascius Physical Bitcoin
* Research Scholar, Department of Studies and Research in Library & Information Science, Tumkur
University, Tumakuru, Karnataka-572103.
†Corresponding Author, Department of Studies and Research in Library & Information Science,
Tumkur University, Tumakuru, Karnataka-572103.
Blockchain has been found as a good solution for various issues encountered by the
academic community and can be used for various tasks like issuing, monitoring,
validating and sharing of certificates (Kolvenbach, Ruland, & Gräther, 2018).
Libraries at the western world started to absorb this technology in a fast manner.
Hoy (2017) suggested that blockchain can be used as another digital rights
management tool. The blockchain project of San Jose State University explores the
technology for building an enhanced metadata system for the libraries, protecting
digital first sale rights, host digital peer-to-peer sharing (“Ways to Use Blockchain
in Libraries,” 2017). Further, this article attempts to study the underlying applications
of blockchain in libraries.
What is blockchain?
A blockchain is a growing list of records, called blocks that are linked
using cryptography. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous
block, a timestamp, and transaction data generally represented as a Merkle tree
(Wikipedia, 2019a). It can be regarded as a public ledger, in which all transactions
are stored in a chain of blocks (Zheng, Xie, Dai, Chen, & Wang, 2018).
Operation of Blockchain
Picture: 2 Operation of Blockchain
Advantage Blockchain Technology for the Libraries
A blockchain consists of six major components viz. node, transaction, block,
chain, minor and consensus. A transaction is requested and a block of the same
transaction is created. Each block consists of certain data, the hash of the block
and the hash of the previous block. A hash is a long record consisting of some digits
and letters generated with the help of a cryptographic hash algorithm. The block is
further sent across the chain to all the nodes for validation. All the nodes inside
blockchain architecture create a consensus protocol which should be abided by
all to get them self-enforced in the chain. After the validation, each node gets a
proof of the work done and the validated block is added to the chain. Any corrupts
attempt will be notified to each node in the chain which ensures the transparency in
the transaction. The blockchain works in a decentralized way. There is no single
device to stores the data. At the same time, data are distributed over the network to
Advantages of Blockchain
1. Settlement in real time
2. Cost saving
5. User pseudonymity
Review of Literature
A worldwide search of literature brings only a few studies which exhibit
blockchain as a subject of study in libraries. Relevant studies can be found in other
disciplines like banking, medicine, health care, business management and supply
chain etc. Blockchain has become a hot debatable issue in various online platforms,
especially in ‘tech blogs’ both as a boon and as a bane which is also discussed here.
The present use and future implications of blockchain technology in academia
have been discussed by Chen, Xu, Lu, & Chen (2018), Turkanovic, Holbl, Kosic, &
Hericko (2018), Grech & Camilleri (2017), Sharples & Domingue (2016), Rooksby
& Dimitrov (2017) Domingue & Bachler (2018) and Grather et al (2018). All are
exemplifying the present and future potential applications of blockchain technologies
in academia like issuing valid certificates, summative evaluation for learning outcomes,
storing student’s grade, getting register to online courses and making digital payments
and so on.
Concerning blockchain applications in libraries, Hoy (2017) in his study put
forward that the gathering, preserving and sharing authoritative information can be
easily done with the help of blockchain technology. It can also be a solution to
prevent copyright issues as it produces a unique verifiable record which is difficult
to reproduce by an outsider. Further, he suggested the technology for creating a
time-stamped verifiable version of journal articles. He pointed out the negative side
of blockchain as technical complexity and environmental unsustainability. Similar
hurdles are shared by Jasson (2018) in ZBW Media Talk, an online blog. He doubted
the inefficiency of library professionals to develop such modern technology in
blockchain for the libraries.
The blockchain project of San Jose State University explores the technology
for building an enhanced metadata system for the libraries, protecting digital first
sale rights, host digital peer- to- peer sharing(“Ways to Use Blockchain in Libraries,”
2017). Law libraries have a further possibility for authenticating primary law
documents as suggested by Debbie (2017). Coghil (2018) noted the possibility of
blockchain for the transfer of fund from libraries to vendors and maintaining electronic
receipts as digital evidence. Further underlying possibilities of blockchain have to
be evidenced in the coming days as this technology is getting pace at various areas
of library and related operations.
Application of Block Chain in Library Operations
The use of blockchain was believed to be onset for the exchange of
cryptocurrency ‘bitcoin’. The chain acts as a ledger of transactions on the network.
The trust and use of blockchain technology for the transfer of data crept up
incrementally because of the features like it resists modification and safeguard data
by cryptographic encryption(Wikipedia, 2019a)
The emergence of blockchain technology has triggered the libraries to adopt
the technology at various levels of its operations as discussed below.
To build a metadata system for libraries
Libraries have been started to build permissionless metadata blockchains in
order to solve certain limitations in cataloguing. The problem of centralization and
tracability in cataloguing can be solved with the help of this technology. Rubel
(2019) in his paper discussed how the system works. Creating a public and private
key is the first stage in this process. These keys are being managed with digital
wallet software. A genesis block would be created next and a new or modified
Advantage Blockchain Technology for the Libraries
record would be submitted by the node to the block for validation which is relying
on a consensus algorithm. Only the top tier nodes would be required to store a copy
of the entire blockchain thereby allowing other institutions to decide whether they
prefer to use the abridged version or the full version(Rubel, 2019).
To protect digital first sale right
Another potential application of blockchain in libraries is found for protecting
the digital first sale right as a result. DECENT, an online blog proposes how e-book
purchasing and lending can be done with the help of blockchain. The author on the
chain can decide whether he/ she wants to allow others on the chain to sneak-peak
into earlier stages of his/her work. If he/she allows, others can borrow it without
any limits or unnecessary high fees(DECENT, 2016).
To connect the network of libraries
The blockchain technology allows digital information to be distributed rather
than just copied.information is shared and reconciled continuously throughout multiple
nodes and each node holds an identical copy of the database as an
evident. Transactions within this database are audited and agreed upon by consensus.
This decentralized method of keeping track of changes ensures the ledger can’t be
practically controlled by any one entity, eliminates the possibility of single-points of
failure, and allows for the verification of transactions without the need for third-
party intervention(Cole, 2017).
To host digital peer to peer sharing
Peer to peer allows two or more network participants to get interact directly in
a decentralized way with each other without the help of an intermediary. It ensures
maximum transparency as the information transfer starts directly from the digital
twin to the intended party(Deloitte,2018). In the near future, libraries will be a
decentralised one where patron’s records will be stored on the blockchain instead
of the database. Users on the chain can control their circulation records and managing
their browsing histories with the approval of other parties on the chain(Stephen,
To share partnership across organizations.
Blockchain has been implemented by many of the biggies across the world like
Accenture and Proof of Insurance in the insurance sector,Mediacal Chain and
Med Rec in Medicine,Bit Property and Deed Coin in real estate, BitGive and AidCoin
in charity, Seccurrency and Ripple in finance,KickCity and Spotify in entertainment,
IBM blockchain in logistics and so.on(Marr, 2018). Organizations can decide what
should be the type of blockchain. Apart from public and private blockchain,
organizations can go for Consortium blockchain where a specific number of
organizations can participate in the chain which is of public or restricted mode and
partially centralized(Lastovetska, 2019).
Findings & Conclusion
Blockchain technology is one of the newest technology trends in libraries. It is
undisputed that blockchain has excellent potential applications in modern libraries.It
is essentially a ledger technology which uses cryptographic techniques and distributed
consensus algorithms to get the features of traceability and immutability(Chen et
al., 2018). These features have been benefitted the libraries for carrying out various
operations like preserving and sharing authoritative information, preventing copyright
issues and digital peer- to- peer sharing etc.
It is a vast and untapped area of study which creates both challenges and
opportunities to the upcoming educators, researchers and developers. By coming
days, the technology will be more visible in libraries as many of the libraries globally
have started working on how to harness these in libraries. Further studies should
also be held to exploit this technology to a maximum level for the benefit of libraries.
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