For three centuries, in American towns large and small, two institutions have uniquely marked a commitment to participatory democracy, learning and open inquiry — our libraries and our free press. Today, as their tools change, their mission of civic engagement and information transparency converge. Economic and technology changes suggest an opportunity for collaboration among these two historic community information centers — one largely public, one largely private. How?
Libraries and legacy media always shared a common purpose — helping us acquire the information we need to be engaged, informed (and entertained) citizens. They used different tools — newspapers, broadcast stations and books. Now the tools are converging — web search, data taxonomies, database creation and analysis, social networks — as librarians and journalists together foster civic literacy and engagement.
The capability of newspapers to provide community information is declining. At the same time, informal sources of local information are rapidly increasing. Librarians want to expand public access to accurate information, including trustworthy local news. So do journalists. How do we expand libraries as community information centers beyond books — perhaps even beyond their four walls — facilitating and engaging with journalists? What can libraries and journalists do — together — to foster improved access to community information?…As the tools and mission converge, it’s time to ask: “What’s possible at the intersection of libraries and journalism that serves the information needs of communities and democracy?”
- What might libraries do to facilitate community social news networks?
- Must free speech be absolute within a taxpayer-supported institution?
- How do we define the boundaries between engagement and partisanship?
- As cable fades, are libraries poised to become public-access media centers?
- Should a library operate a news collective, non-profit or citizen-journalism service?
- How can libraries help preserve a free digital information commons?
Book publishing is clearly on the minds of many these days.
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor