How can we engage underserved communitie…

How can we engage underserved communities to understand their information needs, create knowledge, increase social capital and strengthen the institutions committed to both?

Melody Ng, Allison Payne, Colin Wilkins, Andrew White, Linda Fantin, Tom Stites, Louis Battelen, Christine , Leigh Montgomery, Jen Gilomen, Tina Cheng, Amy Radermacher, Celeste Bruno, Thomas Lowenhaupt, Barbara Zang, Colin Rhinesmith, Nancy Picchi, Jorge Schement.
Linda Fantin, of PIN, Moderator

How do we get new voices and new stories into the fold?
How do we put some creativity to what those information needs are?
How to be more proactive in order to get some social capital involved with this? ‘We struggle with this.’

At a library or news organization, sometimes ‘we’ve had a little coffee / dessert / meet and greet to hear what issues come out.’

Discussion about what constitutes ‘underserved’ meaning: isn’t that anyone that’s not at the table?
‘Lot of Spanish media, lot of ethnic media, specialized publications.’ Is the underserved – us?
Maybe we should listen more carefully?

Thomas Lowenhaupt mentioned that .nyc will be a top level domain, and there is a new wiki to launch to cover the 352 neighborhoods of New York City. He said that May 21 is Bike Week and people can take their Android phone, ride it around the perimeter of their neighborhood, and define and tag it that way.

Some attendees said that access to technology was not universal; that many people still don’t have a smartphone, or live in rural areas, or are recent immigrants.

From the library side: ‘There are teen advisory boards at libraries’ that advise on what they would like to see. Perhaps this could be done with other demographic groups?

‘Little Bill Clinton’ multimedia series in the Christian Science Monitor mentioned – profile of middle school student Bill Clinton Hadam, family were refugees from Ghana who moved to Georgia where Bill went to a charter school. Way to discuss refugees, education, put attention on people that might not be as visible.

Librarian from Oakland mentioned ‘East Side Stories’ which were video profiles of people who lived in that neighborhood. Another mentioned a program at a library in Brooklyn with video interviews conducted by teens.

Someone mentioned the library as an art gallery for immigrant communities – exposing people to their neighbors they might not be aware of. Art or events can be ‘genuine opportunities to bring people together.’

Linda mentioned contacting ‘decision leaders – people that are paid to go to meetings, they can have some of the best kept secrets in the community.’

Resources: ALA has a program, grant supported? to provide funding to bring in speakers to speak on subjects such as citizenship issues.

Pain points include writing grants, that it is a cumbersome application process that can take two people.

Someone from the BPL said there are community meetings in certain branches that are more formal in their mission such as civic education, since that was something that many people said that they wanted to see. Civic education is being planned in programming and interactions with different groups.

Public media is always looking for partners – especially so in current climate – possibility for jointly developed projects.

Jorge mentioned that libraries realized about 20 years ago that it should be about ‘engagement over content.’ that it isn’t what you have in your library but how people are using and engaging with it. Media just realizing this now.

Colin mentioned – what if the stories were more about what was working – ‘appreciative journalism.’
Like the stories about the heroes of Juarez, Mexico.

Also mentioned: DOK in the Netherlands, recognized as one of the most innovative libraries in the world, with community-focused technology, spackes where you could tell your story, touch screens to browse these, and a ‘heritage browser.’

Other innovations: at the Skokie, IL public library
PIN – trying to make a firehose into a stream
Reading of a novel, ‘Oaktown Devils’ by a newly-published author who was a janitor at the library in West Oakland, CA
Partnering with local historical societies


Media literacy is a growing concern, but there’s a perception gap as to what’s known.
We need to tap into the ‘community knowledge’ more.
Librarians are assuming more of the functions of journalism.

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