The Institute of Museum and Library Services has awarded a major grant to the Harvard Law School Library Innovation Lab to further develop its tool to combat link rot.

The IMLS grant awards over $700,000 to the Harvard Law School Library Innovation Lab, in cooperation with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and more than 130 partner libraries, to sustainably scale to combat link rot in all scholarly fields.

Link rot happens when a hyperlink on a web page or within a document points to a website or online resource that has changed or is no longer available. It is a serious problem affecting as much as 70 percent of all scholarly articles in law, medicine, science, and technology, impeding the ability to follow and evaluate the digital scholarly record. Building on solutions and approaches developed in the field of legal scholarship, this project will add to the Perma library coalition and seek to mitigate link rot in other fields.

“ is a brilliant innovation of the HLS Library Innovation Lab, and it has been a groundbreaking gift to the world of legal research,” said Martha Minow, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. “I’m thrilled that this grant will help scholars in other fields reap the same benefits that lawyers and legal scholars have gained from – keeping important links alive permanently.”

Jonathan Zittrain ’95, Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at HLS and George Bemis Professor of International Law, said: “The distributed Web is one of humanity’s greatest achievements. But decentralization brings risks, including the risk that material found within – and often only within – links can change, be blocked, or evaporate without notice or recourse. Perma draws upon the distributed institutional power of libraries to ensure that sources are preserved, and thus that the Web is too.”

Link rot is a problem that permeates all areas of scholarship, said Kim Dulin, associate director for Collection Development and Digital Initiatives and director of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab. “The IMLS grant will allow us to expand our link rot solution to disciplines other than law, for which it was originally designed. It will also provide an opportunity to create a link rot solution for the commercial sector.  Libraries will continue to play a central role in facilitating access to Perma, and will serve as the trusted caretakers of the archive.  We are so grateful that IMLS has given us the opportunity to expand the Perma solution.”

John Wihbey, an assistant professor of journalism and new media at Northeastern University, said, “, supported by a network of libraries, is an immensely promising solution and service that could substantially address the growing problem of link rot, and with it, the problem of wide-scale knowledge loss through functional inaccessibility online.”

The award to is one of forty grants the IMLS announced in mid-April. Totaling $13,016,100, the grants were awarded through the first cycle of the National Leadership Grants for Libraries Program and the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program. A complete list of grantees and project descriptions can be found here.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive.

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society for Internet and Society is a research center at Harvard University that was founded to explore cyberspace, share in its study, and help pioneer its development. We represent a network of faculty, students, fellows, entrepreneurs, lawyers, and virtual architects working to identify and engage with the challenges and opportunities of cyberspace.

Born in 2009, the Harvard Library Innovation Lab’s mission is to build applications and services designed to make libraries as indispensible in the digital world as they have been in the analog world. Since its creation the Lab has developed numerous open source projects benefitting libraries.