How should we redefine “public” and “access” to facilitate new media literacies?

Session Hosts: Lauren Britton Smedley and Rory Solomon

Amy Ryan, Debbie Walter, Amy Radermacher, Jorge Schement, Jeanine Finn, Jessica Smith, Jen Gilomen, Khara Whitney-Marsh, Dana Walker, Katie Ingersoll, Eileen McAdam, Michelle Fellows, Kevin O’Kelly, Karen Perry, Tom Lowenhaupt, Alan Inouye, Denise L McIver, Jack Brighton

1.) How do you define public: Internet not strong public space, non-commercial space and civic space analog on cyber space as citizen, right to exist
2.) How to provide access to a truly public space? Harness the unique public-ness of public libraries
3.) How can collaboration foster access for different people in community? How can we come together to provide access? Challenge to go out in community and engage

Does the internet and new media allow for more equitable access to create/consume?
Nicholas Carr: what is reliable information
Bias of medium moving in a different direction, there is an inherent bias. We have seen a change from linear to multi directional–not one path: web structure.

Unique perspectives and what can come out of creation:, similar to flicker but for audio stories: public access to stories

Journalist and librarians talking about access
Functional access:

  • Connectivity*
  • Capability*: skills to make something
  • Content*: consumed and able to produce or they aren’t participating
  • Context*: communities are different, context must be taken into account
  • Access must be meaningful*

Context Example: *Prairienet* (webhosting, providing computers, bringing things to people instead of making them come to library), provide training partnership between community, library, school
Ownership: to be functional requires *social contract* — participants need to understand and agree to terms, not static, evolve over time
Knowing how to use the tools not just providing them-how did past models succeed?

Natural partnerships
Hard to maintain public access, a million models of doing the ‘good work’ to do well in a sustainable way and truly get your target demographic: challenging for public libraries to maintain public access
Looking at systems 100Million in stimulus.: digital literacy, computers—is there a way to capitalize on what’s already here to create new engagement and create new business models to create sustainability
Is there a way to push back against corporations/facebook in defence of public space?

Restrictions based on economic interests: what is a public library
Renegotiating the social contract of public libraries: libraries are underfunded, not level-funding.
Outcry comes from small groups people who want to keep library as it always has been. Amy from BPL: Frequently hear “in the past” & “when my kids were young” have not allowed ourselves to expand our thinking of public libraries. Nostalgia is our biggest enemy: engage the next generation
How do we foster the ‘curl up and read’ with new technologies: how do we build a 21st century library?

We’re here because we care about the present and future of democracy. Democracy functions best when there is constant exchange of information. Many institutions have developed to allow for exchange of information but only two still functioning that visualized the user as a consumer—libraries and journalism. The alternative model, exchange networks, are thriving. What can we learn from them?

A library as a place to create enabling people to engage/ access just the beginning, it is the start of a conversation
*Key isn’t library but librarians!!* Information navigators—help facilitate civic engagement, get community to come together to teach each other—*not just a gatekeeper librarian but a coach, a navigator*.
Is there a way that journalists can come in to teach basic civic journalism, create stories

FCC: Future of Media Report recommended to include (won’t be in final report however):idea to develop a set of guidelines for libraries taking a stronger role in news in communities.
library has newspapers on shelf, can you go to a public library and get a list of local blogs—a “place about place”, here is a place to get all the information about your community
different levels depending on library—list everything or go further and include public notices, next step to take listing and to add academic rigor
provide assessment regarding the caliber of the reporting not the thought
teach to use info skills. The next step is media/news generation but we aren’t doing the first one yet.
Librarians are experts in their community and they aren’t expanding this knowledge. A lot of library myth and there is a gap: stepping more broadly into community news and information

LOCAL!! find gaps that provide perspective: do we have the right news/information: gap in local accountability relating to news.

look at the community news outlets in area that are already providing service.
The Knight Commission published a toolkit for evaluating information ecology.
Perhaps librarians and local journalists should review together.

Another case / example
Remember the video about the I-35W Mississippi River bridge collapse from Peter Shane’s “Information Stories” videos yesterday? (
In this example, the community journalists pulled in images from flickr: what do people think about this? For example as it relates to ownership? Posting images becomes point of source/record—library as public repository, host in a public way
persistence of access
wikimedia commons

What is sustainable?

Boston library uses flickr as hosting site for images, but keeps source images

Internet not public space, more like a mall: option for debate
Digital Library of America: what does access mean? what does public mean?

Not just making something new: getting people to use tools—there are tools available, must be infrastructure, money required to sustain access
Examine unexplored space


(1) We did not quite reach a consensus about the public vs. private commons question. Especially as it relates to sustainability. What can we count on? Can we factor in open standards and open source tools here? What about things like wikimedia commons and etc

(2) Can pubic access go further? To support and expand communities. New notions of literacy including digital media, which implies the ability to create as well as to consume. Local, community, accountability.


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