BiblioNews: Common purpose for journalists and librarians

April 6-7 symposium at MIT;
April 7 open evening at Cambridge Public Library

John Nichols hosts wrapup at Cambridge Public Library

This is the information page for “Beyond Books: News, Literacy, Democracy and America’s Libraries” (shortlink: “BiblioNews”) a one-and-one-half-day convening April 6-7, 2011 at MIT in Cambridge, Mass., for journalists, librarians and citizens. From the links below and along the black bar at the top of the page you can reach our wiki pages, find out who’s coming, and follow other resources below. We are meeting immediately prior to the National Conference for Media Reform, next door in Boston on April 8-10. (PUBLIC EVENT / THURS. APRIL 7 / 7 P.M. CAMBRIDGE PUBLIC LIBRARY / CLICK HERE OR ON IMAGE TO RIGHT FOR DETAILS.)


(Peek at who else is coming)


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 common missions 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?



The capability of newspapers to provide community information is declining. At the same time, informal sources of local information are rapidly increasing.

Libraries and legacy media have 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.

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?

Thus, 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?”

On Wednesday and Thursday, April 6 and 7, 2011, Journalism That Matters,  (the American Library Association,) the MIT Center for Future Civic Media, the Media Giraffe Project at UMass Amherst the New England News Forum and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute invite you to join in a work session for civic information transparency that builds from and beyond books.

Via a pre-event social network, an evening agenda-setting dialogue, a day of roundtable planning and closing action commitments, we’ll discover what’s possible at the intersection of public spaces, open documents, citizen reporting and journalistic purpose.  Among the questions we may ask:

  • 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?
  • Are libraries poised to become public-access media centers as cable fades?
  • Should a library operate a news collective, non-profit or citizen-journalism service?
  • How can libraries help preserve a free digital information commons?


Among our collaborators are(alpha order): Joe Bergantino (New England Center for Investigative Reporting), Jessica Durkin (New America Foundation fellow), Mike Fancher (RJI / Seattle Times-retired), Marsha Iverson (King County libraries), Library Leadership & Management Assn. (LLMA), Alan Inouye (director, Office of Info Tech Policy, ALA), Nancy Kranich (Rutgers Univ., chair ALA Center for Public Life), Lorrie LeJeune and Andrew Whitacre (MIT C4FCM), Peter Levine (CIRCLE at Tufts Univ.),  Leigh Montgomery (Christian Science Monitor librarian), Donna Nicely (Knight Commission/Nashville Public Library), Laurie Norton-Moffatt (Norman Rockwell Museum),  John Nichols (FreePress/The Nation), Patrick Phillips (Vineyard Voice), Josh Stearns (, Colin Rhinesmith (Univ. of Illinois), David Weinberger (Harvard Library Information Lab), Bill Densmore, (New England News Forum/Media Giraffe Project/Reynolds Journalism Institute).


For information about lodging, see our lodging page.
Participants can also review lodging options at the FreePress conference site logistics page