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

Blogging Process for Topeka

Today, I met with some library staff where I work and talked about starting up another blog on my library’s website (look for a sports-related blog soon!). That reminded me that I said I’d write a post about our blogging process at tscpl.org … so here’s that post!

Our blogs are generally team-based, and are connected in some way to our collection or services:

Content Connections: For example, our Travel blog is connected to our Travel Neighborhood in the library (we have been pulling our collection out of traditional Dewey order, and are grouping them by topic – so for example, now all our travel books are grouped in one handy place, and labeled Travel). Our Art blog is connected to the art gallery in the library.

Team-Based: we generally have a team leader and 1-3 other staff who are team members. The team leader makes sure blog content matches the goals for the blog; makes sure content is actually getting posted; writes content; and can edit content as needed. Team members help write the blog posts, and do whatever else is needed for that blog.

When we create a new blog, our web team meets with the blog team (can you tell we like teams?), and we create some short-term goals and next-steps, including:

  • What’s the topic? Is it connected to the library’s collection?
  • Who’s the team leader? Who are the team members?
  • How often will you post? We have a posting schedule for our blogs. For example, the Travel blog has a new post every other Wednesday. We have a Google Calendar that serves as our content calendar.
  • During the meeting, we talk about content – mainly me talking about how every post needs to relate back to the library. Each post should focus in some way on our staff, our stuff, and our community – and it should always point back to the library.
  • They’re also reminded that photographs and videos are cool, too – as long as they relate back to the topic.
  • We ask the blog team to create a list of 25 things our customers should know about that neighborhood or collection, and use that list as ideas for the blog’s first 25 blog posts. This helps our bloggers (some of who are new at writing scheduled posts) some blog posting ideas.
  • I also ask each blog team to develop a persona or two to target with posts. We’re big on analytics and market segmentation data here, so generally we’re using a couple of target audiences that relate back to the library’s strategic plan.

That’s pretty much it. We have approximately 18 blogs on our public website right now, and are growing more as we need them.

image by Maria Reyes McDavis