As I’ve mentioned before, I am very curious (but at the nascent stage) of thinking about the blurring lines between journalists and librarians. Certainly the two fields have much in common – information professionals whose institutions have to change dramatically because of technology, the glut of information, the increased ease for ordinary people to have an audience, and the growing ability for people to get information from other “non-information professionals”. (I check out the amazon reviews, send out a twitter asking for feedback, read blogs to make sense of emerging news stories, ichat with my brother-who works for Apple but frequents their user discussion list to find answers-when I’m having trouble with my computer, and send text messages to my husband when there are home maintenance issues during the day.)
Lately, I’ve been digging around one of my favorite citizen journalism web sites (also a Knight project) and am struck by how similar the language and offerings of the site are to what libraries do. Someday, I’ll write a journal article about this, but in the meantime, Here are some of my random thoughts…
Knight Citizen News Network is particularly relevant to the field of Community Informatics. They have created a “self help portal that guides ordinary citizens and traditional journalists in launching and responsibly operating community news and information site.” They further state, “Citizens like you can learn to use digital media in ways that enrich community, enhance public discourse, and enliven democracy as we know it.”
This site is rich with resources for librarians who want to help people in their community to become community reporters, find local metroblogs (see for example, Austin MetBlogs) or citizen media outlets, get funding to start a micro-local news service, make us of widgets like google maps, learning modules with online reports like “How to Survive and Thrive: A digital literacy guide for the information age“, stories from people who have a particular expertise (e.g., a backdoor biologist shares his photos and info on finding rare birds), information about fair use and copyright…the list goes on.
But more importantly, I don’t see anything on this site that could not also be done by “the other” information professionals – librarians. In fact the paragraph describing “Why support KCNN” sounds very much like it could be part of a library’s brochure about upcoming workshops:
Citizens like you can learn to use digital media in ways that enrich community, enhance public discourse, and enliven democracy as we know it.
Wouldn’t that be a great thing to learn at your local library? Use technology to increase your ability to participate in your community and learn it at the library?
Last Spring e-democracy invited me to Minneapolis/St. Paul to meet with several libraries and to keynote a regional library meeting. One of my favorite visits was to the Rondo Library which is housed in a low income neighborhood on the first floor of an apartment complex with over 90 apartments and 6 townhomes. E-democracy works closely with the library and with library users to provide in impressive array of E-democracy Online Tools Workshops.
Young people need only go downstairs to the library to take computer classes on how to upload video online, build a website and produce a podcast. Parents can learn how to use the e-democracy site to contribute their opinions, AND it’s a site that as become a trusted source for local politicians to monitor and use for making policy. But here’s what’s really impressive. These classes and many of the other activities it takes to make this program work are done by members of the community. When I was there to speak at their open house, a thirteen-year-old volunteer (actually, he might have been even younger) did the videotaping. Prior to the event, he taped residents talking about their concerns and ideas for the community and that video was uploaded online.
The official name of the library is Rondo Community Outreach Library, but it should be Rondo Community Engaged Library. Perhaps their tagline should be “the library of the people, for the people and by the people.”
What are some examples of libraries that are providing this kind of community portal – physical or virtual? How are libraries enabling citizens with digital media skills in order to build community?