I was on a panel at the American Library Association conference in New Orleans, discussing strategic partnerships between journalists and librarians. The lively discussion lasted two hours, with lots of enthusiasm and ideas from the audience.
I talked about the report of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy and my just-release policy paper, “Re-Imagining Journalism: Local News for a Networked World.”
One clear impression from the panel discussion is that people think this is a worthwhile topic at a critical time for both professions. My key takeaways:
• Librarians see civic engagement as an important element in what they do and how they make their case for public support. Civic engagement helps democracy, but it also has economic benefits to communities.
• Digital literacy is a core competency of libraries. It needs to be actively advanced and promoted.
• Institutional inertia could be a barrier in some library systems. Students are being trained for a new library culture, but the needed cultural change may come slowly in some systems. (This is a great topic to explore for libraries and journalism.)
• People are excited about early results from LibrariUS, a partnership among the American Public Media Public, the ALA and its Public Library Association division. Attendees offered several ideas and examples for extending it.
• Several people spoke glowing about their experience at the Biblionews conference at MIT in April. Two items stood out: 1) the JTM methodology for bringing together people from different backgrounds and disciplines; 2) the use of information technology to capture the experience immediately and permanently. The librarians were particularly interested in the second item.
• The library community is ready to move ahead; bringing journalists along may be a tougher challenge. (That’s my view, not the librarians’.)
• Higher education needs to be a partner.
The nexus of journalism, libraries and civic engagement is a terrific area for Journalism That Matters to continue to be a catalyst.