Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Libraries as Creators and Stewards of Content

Monica wrote:

I stumbled across The Hub which is a site that uses You Tube as a platform for human rights media and action. For a library I love the idea of gathering sites like this and showing patrons how You Tube can be used for the greater good. I think it’s important to show, especially our younger patrons, that they should use YouTube for fun and creativity, but that there’s also more ways to use the technology.

Definitely. In fact, there's no reason these patrons, young and old alike, can't be creative and have fun while taking advantage of YouTube to inform their community about any number of greater goods. And libraries shouldn't just passively aggregate such sites, I'd argue, but openly encourage and facilitate their production. Such productions, created by and for the community, would then become a part of the libraries permanent collection.

Hasn't the library always championed civic engagement? Haven't they always yearned to draw their communities in with rich programming and encourage collaboration?

We know from the Pew Internet and American Life Project project that "57% of online teens create content for the internet." That comes out to roughly 12 million of them. As the report's authors write:

Today's online teens live in a world filled with self-authored, customized, and on-demand content, much of which is easily replicated, manipulated, and redistributable. The internet and digital publishing technologies have given them the tools to create, remix, and share content on a scale that had previously only been accessible to the professional gatekeepers of broadcast, print and recorded media outlets.

And, according to a recent white paper headed by Henry Jenkins, this 2005 Pew report actually

..undercounts the number of American young people who are embracing the new participatory culture. The Pew study did not consider newer forms of expression such as podcasting, game modding or machinima. Nor did it count other forms of creative expression and appropriation, such as music sampling in the hip hop community.

Which is to say, a whole lot of young folks are generating and messing around with online content, YouTube being simply one of the more popular platforms for doing so. Certainly some of the more well-funded, progressive thinking libraries are stepping into the thick of such content creation. The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenberg county, for example, is truly expanding the very notion of what constitutes "literacy." They represent a new breed of library--one that recognizes a 21st century brand of literacy needs to encompass more than just text. Or, as the folks at The Media Spot write, the "21st Century idea of 'Literacy' should include new media to serve the democratic ideal of an educated and informed citizenry."

Those 12 million plus teens are no longer content to passively consume information and culture. They want to play a more active role in creating, manipulating and disseminating it. How can libraries assist them? The opportunities are there. Because I fear if libraries don't become part of this evolutuion, if they continue to shrug and turn their backs rather then actively engaging in the rapid (and exciting--holy cow, it's exciting!) transformation of how their patrons and communities are consuming/interacting/manipulating information, well, then we truly will become dusty warehouses of books. Then we truly will become irrelevant.

Summarizing the notoriously chastising 2006 keynote address author Andrei Codrescu gave to the American Library Association, Karen Schneider wrote:

Condrescu sees libraries in the role of community digital repositories and producers of culture, and he called librarians to embrace the role of libraries as cultural centers.

That's right. Public libraries have an amazing opportunity to reinvigorate and engage with their communities in new, constructive ways. And while fret over the lack of constructive criticism and analytical/evaluative depth coming out of the Library 2.0 community (what methodologies are available or even being used to quantitatively measure, for example, the impact of the staff time and resources necessary in maintaining a library's social-networking presence?--I'll write more about this later) there's no doubt that the Library 2.0 movement, over the last couple years, has fostered a loud, vibrant conversation while simultaneously challenging a number of well-worn assumptions regarding the "role" of the library.

It's through the door that Library 2.0 is prying open, with all its evangelistic fervor, that we have an opportunity to bring libraries more fully into the 21st century. And while I'm both heartened and dismayed that so many current and future librarians are currently learning, at the cusp of the new year, about blogs for the first time--it does demonstrate that the profession has stopped wringing its collective hands and is beginning to listen. There's a hunger for change, a recognition that we must adopt or die.

1 comment:

Monica3800 said...

You are so right about being more proactive in our approach. OCLC's latest report Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World (
shows 32% of respondents in the US using a social media site in the last year. What potential!