Category Archives: Community Informatics

Knight Commission calls for funding America’s libraries for civic dialogue

The Knight Commission released its report Informing Communities:  Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age on Friday, October 2, 2009.  The Report and Discussion are available at:  Knight encourages participation in the national dialogue on the Commission’s recommendations by discussing the report and joining the Healthy Community Forum.  

The Report includes three categories of findings and recommendations:

1.     Maximizing the Availability of Relevant and Credible Information
2.     Enhancing the Information Capacity of Individuals
3.     Promoting Public Engagement

According to the Commission, “The questions America faces at this point in its information history, however, go beyond questions of strategy to questions of values. The Knight Commission has recommended a series of strategies that, in various ways, exhort our major public and nonprofit institutions to give new priority to values of openness, inclusion, and engagement. The values questions posed are equally profound, however, for individual citizens and for the institutions of the media.”

The commission’s recommendation regarding libraries, include:

America’s libraries need sufficient funding to serve as centers for information, training, and civic dialogue. Public libraries are located in nearly all communities in the United States. Most of them are wired for Internet service. Nearly all offer public Internet, and almost three quarters are the only providers of free public computer and Internet access in their communities.

Obama Pledges Support for Social Innovation, Encourages Public-Private Partnerships

Obama Pledges Support for Social Innovation, Encourages
Public-Private Partnerships (7/02/09)

Foundation Center, Philanthropy News Digest, July 7, 2009

President Barack Obama has pledged that his administration will
do its part to support grassroots organizations that are suc-
cessful in their efforts to improve communities, the Associated
Press reports.

While announcing the launch of the Community Solutions Agenda at
a White House gathering last week, Obama issued a challenge to
government, business, foundations, and average citizens to come
together to identify and invest in promising solutions to the
nation’s toughest problems. The effort, which includes the White
House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation and a
$50 million Innovation Fund, is designed to help scale effective
nonprofit innovations and foster promising new ideas in educa-
tion, health care, energy, the economy, and other areas.

To that end, the Innovation Fund will work to leverage invest-
ments totaling $1 billion over five years in support of high-
impact social sector innovations. Administered by the Corporation
for National and Community Service, the fund will provide grants
to existing grantmaking institutions that in turn support inno-
vative, results-driven nonprofits. Grantmaking institutions and
their nonprofit grantees will be asked to match the fund’s

“Solutions to America’s challenges are being developed every day
at the grassroots,” Obama said during the White House gathering.
“Government shouldn’t be supplanting those efforts. It should be
supporting those efforts.”

“President Announces Community Solutions Agenda.” America Forward
Press Release 6/30/09.

Participatory Librarianship and Change Agents

The Blended Librarian (a community of librarians, faculty, instructional designers and technologists working to integrate the library into the teaching and learning process) is offering a free online discussion with Dr. David Lankes on December 11 from 3-4 EST. The event is free, but you must pre-register and become a member (also free) of the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community so be sure to allow time to be approved. I applied to be a member last night and received my registration information this morning.

Dr. Lankes is a Fellow at ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy and is the creator of the Participatory Librarianship Starter Kit and he blogs here. Here is the information about the upcoming talk. I have watched some of David’s videos and recommend you consider attending. Even if you can’t attend, join the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community and you’ll be able to access the archive. Also, the technology they use is pretty cool to explore!

Participatory Librarianship and Change Agents
Thursday, December 11, 2008
3-4pm EST

Event Description
Knowledge is created through conversation. Libraries are in the knowledge business. Therefore libraries are in the conversation business. This seemingly simple set of statements has profound implications for how libraries are run, and how they measure success. For example, it casts library services as centered on learning, and not access. This presentation will cover the basics of participatory librarianship, and talk about the need for librarians to become change agents within their own libraries and the communities they serve. This is a great opportunity to hear Dr. Lankes discuss participatory librarianship, which has commonalities with blended librarianship, without having to travel to a national or state conference.

Guest Speaker Bio
R. David Lankes is an Associate Professor at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies, Director of the Information Institute of Syracuse, and Fellow at ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy.

Although this event is free, advance registration is required to reserve a virtual seat.

If you are already a member of the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community, register here:

If you need to join the Blended Librarians Online Community in order to register (no fee to join):

  1. Go to the Blended Librarian website at
  2. Click on the “Join” button on the home page of and follow the instructions.
  3. After you receive confirmation of your Learning Times account you can return to this email message and use the link above for registered members of Learning Times. Click on the link, and then register on the next page (you may need to scroll down to see the register button).
  4. We recommend that those participating in the webcast obtain a microphone or headset in order to make use of the VoIP technology that allows conversation between the speakers and participants. A microphone or headset is not required to participate.
  5. Please plan on allowing yourself sufficient time to log in to the webcast on December 11, 2008. If it is the first time attending a Learning Times event it may take a few extra minutes to log on to their Elluminate webcasting software. Once you have registered for the event you may wish to try the “test room” to make sure your computer is set up and ready to go the day of the webcast.

Libraries and Journalism

[cross-posted with minor changes from my personal blog with apologies to the one person who follows both. Sorry for cluttering up your RSS feed, @tacrain57!]

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?

The Rondo public library in St. Paul is doing just that!

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?

Knight Commission on Information Needs of Communities

Earlier this week I wrote to the Deliberate discussion list and asked where the librarians were in the work being done by the Knight Commission on the information needs of communities in a democracy. I was happily proven wrong. Libraries are represented by TWO outstanding individuals. YEAH!

The commission met at Google earlier this week and a couple of people I know or follow on Twitter attended. Chris O’Brien, technology writer for the San Jose Mercury News attended and posted a blog about the meeting. He writes about how the constant onslaught of information makes it difficult to determine the accuracy of information. How do communities decide what information and what sources to trust? (hmm, sounds like an information literacy issue.) He poses two possible solutions.

One is to tap into the power of crowds to evaluate and rate the sources. He cites where news stories are evaluate by people who, over time build up a reputation and become trusted sources. In other words individuals rate news articles and other individuals rate the rating. Stories are rated based on: Recommendations, accuracy, balance, context, evidence, fairness, importance, information, sources, style, and trust.

The other possible solution he cites is to form intermediaries or editors that can establish themselves as “trust advisers” to people online. Hey, that sounds like a job for an information professional (i.e., librarian!) I told Chris that I was posting his story to the students in my UIUC Library and Info Sciences class, Community Engagement.

I’d love to see some librarians comment on his blog. See link to article below.

O’Brien: Communities need help finding information on the Web they can trust