Debbie and I connected over e-mail; she has a full calendar of conferences leading up to the confab. However, we found a lot of common ground in tackling our questions!

Our hopes for outcomes of the confab related to our backgrounds and work
Debbie: I have been focusing on community engagement in my studies. In my work, I am a library director in a small academic library. I see that libraries are changing dramatically as journalism, banks, higher education, etc all are. Both journalist and librarians are format neutral. I want to come away with ideas that we can work together to adapt to the needs of the future for our communities. Both librarians and journalists are concerned with researching, evaluating and distilling information. It would be a dramatic loss if we lost that.
Jordan: Our research at UW related to public access computer use and training in libraries encompasses the consumption of local news stories as a component of civic engagement. In my own research, I am also using Bonnie Nardi’s framework of the public library as an “information ecology,” meaning the richness of information exchange in the library is facilitated by its space, people and resources. With regard to these research areas, I would like to take away a better understanding of the consumption of news within libraries and how librarians can help citizens to inform themselves. Furthermore, I am interested in the role library digital literacy programs and public access computing can have on participation in and creation of citizen journalism, testimonials, and impact statements related to local issues.

What is the common ground between journalism and librarianship?
Debbie: Both groups provide information to the community and have similar values. Both have interests in collaborating with, disseminating and evaluating information that comes from the government.
Jordan: The US Impact survey work in libraries, conducted by UW and funded by the Gates Foundation, indicates that finding information on local issues can be a primary goal of the public computer user. In addition, libraries as a space lead to interactions among people from all walks of life; for this reason, the library can be powerful venue for storytelling and assessment of on-the-ground community needs.

How can journalists and librarians serve the common good?
Debbie: I was at a conference a few years ago between journalists and computer scientists at Georgia Tech. The computer scientists were trying to figure out what was going on with journalist so they could do it themselves. It was not a collaborative situation. I would like to see this group of people to work for the ultimate goal of engaging community and providing quality information.
Jordan: I see a body of knowledge journalists have that can be critical to literacy in the digital age; libraries already work to promote digital literacy (e.g., how to work a mouse, start a session on the computer, and perhaps formulate a resume from scratch) but a deeper level of engagement with current events and online documents requires the ability to discern legitimacy of sources once they are found. Journalists can navigate information sources in this manner; their ability to verify sources and data are complimentary to that of librarians, who are experts at meeting informational needs.

What we bring to the confab
Debbie: I find that I can find the good things and make them better by looking at them a different way. I think about the future realistically. I feel I have a better than average understanding of the point of view of people at different generations. I have a talent for seeing people strengths of people and helping to work on those talents. I hope that we find a way to connect groups together to encourage journalism to flourish.
Jordan: Meeting information needs in a humanistic way is my top priority. Like a librarian, who must determine what a patron’s real information need is, I assess problems by probing users’ suggested solutions (i.e., technology users and information seekers generally speak in solutions rather than problems). For this reason, I try to be a good listener, and to understand the motivations of those I am trying to help without judgment. In attending a conference with both journalists and librarians, I hope to connect the points of strength each profession offers and to formulate an idea of the challenges each faces to perhaps contribute solutions or collaborations that may be mutually beneficial.

Our vision for libraries in 2016
Debbie: Community member, governmental officials and journalists create news online through things like blogs. Libraries and e-government will collaborate to provide information. Citizen journalists will provide information. Journalists will provide current information, editing and provide special issue reporting. Libraries will provide sites and equipment for citizens to create multimedia information. Libraries would also provide training and forums for communities.
Jordan: Libraries will offer information portals, possibly on their home pages, where individuals can seek community information. Local news items and issues will link to options for getting citizens more involved in civic life, including discussions led by journalists or local leaders, perhaps hosted at the library. The library and/or local news outlet – or even an independent journalism advocate, such as ProPublica.org – will offer multimedia presentations with in-depth testimonials. At a conference just today – SeaChange UW ’11 – an anthropologist who studies communities in crisis after natural or industrial disasters commented during a group discussion that, with the collapse of print & local media, most primary sources are now government and industry officials. We need more statements, more input, from regular people related to local issues to give a more holistic view of impacts and needed actions – libraries may be a great venue to educate people about their voices in the community, and a place to learn how to contribute and act on local issues.