How can we leverage 100,000+ news sources and libraries to gather stories and useful information? (3 pm)

Host/reporter: Melody Ng
Leigh Montgomery
Katy Aronoff
Katie Ingersoll
Debbie Holmes
Michelle Fellows
Cynthia Orozco
Alpha Delap
Eileen McAdam
Debbie Walter
Khara Whitney-Marsh
Tom Flanagan


We currently have more than 100,000 people in the Public Insight Network who have agreed to share what they know to inform news coverage. We also have tens of thousands of libraries who have a mission to inform people and serve their communities. How can we leverage this knowledge, information, desire to serve, goodwill, etc. to produce great stories or gather essential information that benefit people?

For example, one thing we’ve wanted to try with the Public Insight Network for a while is a crowd sourcing or citizen science project — like the ones that get people to monitor migrating monarch butterflies or birds. Maybe sampling tap water, or soil…

Can you think of something that people or libraries would be excited to help monitor or measure, or talk about?

Ideas & examples from the group

Everything starts with a good question: e.g., Have you observed ______ where you live?

How about gas prices? Everyone cares about gas prices. Could ask people how prices are changing their habits.

Could ask people to respond to a topic or question with one of the following:
– I have an opinion.
– I have an observation.
– I have a rant.

Or ask: Why does _________ matter?

WNYC has done something with milk prices, asking people to report in on the cost of milk, eggs and bread, and mapping it.

Food deserts: distance to fresh fruit and vegetables

Ask people for questions or topics they don’t see or hear about in the media

Ask: What do you do when the library’s closed?

Some organization wanted to know how people felt about gentrification of a neighborhood. So it put up a big billboard-sized sign in the middle of the neighborhood that asked people what they thought. Installed a phone by the billboard so people could call in with their views.

Tios for a collaborative project

Think in advance about how it will be curated.
Including visual communication is key.
Look for depth.
Consider cultural barriers.
Ask people questions with the mindset that they are equal knowers — they have something to contribute.
Encourage for the project to lead to action:
– Libraries could be involved in helping get people doing
– Add a “Take action with that” button or check box at the end of an online survey form, for example.
– Let people comment on what action they’re going to take.
– Follow up with people a few months down the road, and report on what actions took place.
– Include links to resources and bloggers who focus on that topic, etc. so people can get more involved or educated on topic.

How to motivate people to participate

People need immediate feedback if they participate. Provide it.
Provide online ratings for people who participate – e.g., they get badges or honorary titles.
Determine what people’s goals are, and make sure the project can help them accomplish their own goals – e.g., If they share some information we ask for, we should give them back useful information to them — like Prometheus Radio Project letting community radio stations know if they’ve filled out federal forms correctly or not.

How can libraries participate?

Q: Do libraries have time to do this? Aren’t they already underfunded and understaffed?
A: Yes, but libraries will participate because their mission is to empower people and gather & preserve the stories of their communities. Things that benefit patrons are at the top of their To-Do priority list.

Lend out digital recorders and train people on how to use.
Involve Talk Time programs – People learning English meet weekly at local library to converse in English on a topic, like women’s health (Thomas Crane Public Library in Quincy, MA, and Cambridge Public Lib are two that have these programs)
Host or organize community events

Think of libraries as settlement houses, community centers.
Lots of resources to use: auditoriums, cafes, gift shops, big screen TVs, group study rooms, presentation practice spaces, tutoring…

Good questions

Questions people in the group want to ask (or get answers to) — and thus, might make good questions for a project

What’s the hot topic in your community today?
What’s the last interesting conversation you had?
Why does my four-year-old drive me nuts so frequently?
What were you thinking when you got dressed today?
How do you set priorities?
What was the last time you were profoundly moved?
What do you believe in deeply?
What are you cooking for dinner tonight?
Who’s the last person you asked for help from?
What’s the last argument you had with your spouse (or significant other)?
What did you last change your mind about?
How did you find out about ________ (insert major historical event — e.g., 9/11 or end of WWII)?
Where were you when _________ happened?
Who are your heroes?
What was the last thing you learned that really excited you>?
How do you self identify? (when you’re not checking boxes on the Census form)
How much information do you really want?
What are you doing with the rest of your life?
What’s a confusing situation you’re in that requires collaboration?
What will people (or aliens) find in the future when they sift through what’s left of 2011?

This entry was posted in Session Notes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to How can we leverage 100,000+ news sources and libraries to gather stories and useful information? (3 pm)

  1. These are fabulous suggestions–thanks guys!

Comments are closed.