Content Creation, Media Labs, and Hackerspaces

Skokie Public Library's Digital Media Lab

I’ve been thinking about content creation and libraries lately. Right now, we collect content – hence our shelves of stuff. Yes, we do many other things too. But if you look at our buildings, they have been, by and large, designed for collections of stuff – for collecting content.

Some libraries are changing that focus (or at least adding on to it) by enabling customers to create their own content in a variety of ways … and it’s pretty interesting stuff!

I’ll lump what I’m seeing into three loose categories:

  • Digital Media Labs
  • Hackerspaces
  • Coworking spaces

Digital Media Labs: These spaces have content creation tools that allow customers to create and share video, music, photography, and design projects. Customers have access to computers with editing software, cameras, camcorders, microphones, and musical keyboards.

The best examples I’ve seen of this so far are Skokie Public Library’s Digital Media Lab and Chicago Public Library’s YouMedia project. Skokie’s lab has a greenscreen wall for video projects; Youmedia includes a small recording studio space.

Hackerspaces: “A hackerspace … is a location where people with common interests, often in computers, technology, science, or digital or electronic art (but also in many other realms) can meet, socialise and/or collaborate … hackers can come together to share resources and knowledge to build and make things” (from Wikipedia).

Basically, hackerspaces tend to be public spaces with tools – 3D printers, drill presses, etc. And people make stuff there. Who’s doing this? Well, Allen County Public Library and Fayetteville Free Library are, for starters.

Coworking Spaces: Coworking is a pretty simple concept. Independent workers, freelancers, small business owners, etc. gather in a shared space to share ideas, team up on projects, and get some work done in a more social setting. It’s an alternative to meeting at home or a local coffee shop.

Libraries have unofficially done this for years (how many of you have heard of a patron who runs his/her business from the library? I’ll bet some of you have). But some libraries are going a step or two further by embedding librarians in these spaces, or even offering coworking spaces as part of their services. Meg Knodl, a librarian at Hennepin County Library, is doing this – here’s an article on what Meg is doing. Helsinki City Library has created some coworking spaces – read more about it here.

For more info, check out these articles:

Question – is your library doing something like this? If so, let me know in the comments!

Photo by Skokie Public Library

Internet Librarian 2011, Day 2: Designing for Optimal UX

Nate Hill, Web Librarian, San Jose Public Library

Chris Noll, Noll & Tam Architects

Slide on the screen:

Because of the Internet, access to:
Books and other documents have gone from Read to Read/Write
Photo and video output has gone from View to View/Edit
Music and other audio has gone from Listen to Listen/Remix

Nate is introducing the topic of libraries starting to support content creation, and the models behind that.

Chris:

Contra Costa has used vending machines in shopping malls, etc. Washington County is using reserve boxes.

Boston Chinatown Storefront Library – community driven library

Houston – small small branch…

DC – Kiosk branches…

Greenbridge Library – took a community center, and developed part of it into a library

Idea Stores in London. Mix up libraries, cafes, etc.

Morgan Hill Library – self checkout, check in, self help holds, etc – very self-driven

Nate:

talking about the Digital Public Library or America project and their beta sprint. Realized we will still need physical spaces to create digital content.

LibraryLab idea:

broken into modules like audio and video creation, scanning, collaboration, etc

Chris: talking about creating furniture for these creative types of spaces …

Give people access to tools. Some libraries check out tools or musical instruments. Why not video cameras, microphones, etc?

Why not have design tools – desktop publishing, CAD/CAM tools, 3D printers, etc? The library could support these things.

They want this project to happen … but need funding, etc.

Turning Strangers into Friends

The Thank You Economy

I just read The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk. Good read. Here’s an interesting thought I got out of it that relates to libraries.

On page 53, he writes about Nielson conducting a study on what drives consumer trust. 70% of people said they turn to family and friends for advice when making purchasing decisions.

Then Gary says this: “The ROI of your relationship with your mother is going to be much higher than that of the one you have with a good friend. Both, however, are more valuable than the one you have with an acquaintance, which trumps the relationship you have with a stranger. Without social media, you and your customer are relegated to strangers; with it, depending on your efforts, you can potentially upgrade your relationship to that of casual acquaintances, and even, in time, to friends. The power of that relationship can go so far as to convert a casual browser into a committed buyer, or a buyer into an advocate.” (pg 54-55).

This idea of turning strangers into friends works great in libraries, too. The goal is simply this – become casual acquaintances, or even friends, with our customers. We have done that for years in our buildings – I’d say that’s business as usual.

Online? We can do the same thing by using social media tools like Twitter and Facebook. Start friending people in your community. Your customers. That’s how you start turning strangers into friends … and into customers of your library.

Here’s what Gary did – he created Twitter alerts for wine words like Merlot. When someone had a question about that term, he answered it … and started growing a reputation about actually knowing something about wine.

We know stuff too – we are librarians, after all! Use a tool like Twitter. Do a zip code search for your local area or a town search … then add some words to that search, like book, reading, etc. Or business terms … or whatever the hot issues in your town happen to be.

Then start answering questions or making comments as they seem relevant. Point to your stuff, like the book that answers it, when it makes sense. Be helpful … like you already are in your building.

It’s a way to get out in the community without actually leaving the air conditioning!

Pic by Steven Rosenbaum

Use the Front Door

A front door in Delft

If your library’s like mine, you have staff-only ways to access library stuff … things like employee parking, a staff-only entrance, a back-end way to access the library catalog, etc. Whenever I put a book on hold, I get it delivered via inter-office mail.

I never have to use the library like a patron if I don’t want to!

My question – is this a good thing?

Try using your library like a patron. Is it easy or hard? Is there something that frustrates you about the whole process? It’s probably doing the same thing to your patrons.

Here’s a thought – maybe we should create a “Work Like a Patron” week, where we only use the library like our customers do – use your library’s wifi (bonus points for using a Public PC), search using the patron version of your catalog, maybe even sit at those lovely desks in the library. Or hang out in a cafe, accessing all work- and library-related stuff from outside of the building. Use the front door, and see the library through your patrons’ eyes.

This works for the IT department, too. Use library employee tools like … library employees, rather than like IT dudes and dudettes. Is it hard? If so … it’s probably hard for the rest of the library, too. Make it work for everyone!

If it works wonderfully, great! If not, maybe you have some things to improve.

Answer these Questions

I recently read What do You Want People to See over on the Social Rabbit blog. Good read … and it made me think a bit.

The article discusses setting some goals for your social media sites by answering some questions – questions like this:

  • What are you using social media in your business for?
  • what impression about your business do you want to leave people with?

Not bad questions to answer at all. For example, think about your organization’s Facebook Page (assuming you have one). What are you using that for? Have any idea?

How about the second question – what impression do you want to leave people with who visit your organization’s Facebook Page? Answering this question might change the way you post status updates, or what types of pictures you add to the page, for example.

Pondering those questions made me think about our organization websites. Shouldn’t we answer those types of questions in relation to our websites too? I think so.

Take a peek at a page on your website – any page will do. Then answer these questions:

  • what should your audience be looking at while on this page?
  • where are you pointing your audience? What actions should they take here?
  • What should they do next?

Answering these questions will start you down the path of setting some goals for major sections of your website. Not a bad thing to have at all :-)

Pic by Alexander Henning Drachmann