Diversity in Action: Public Libraries Creating Spaces for Everyone

I tried on a few different hats in choosing my own adventure for the Hyperlinked Environments module and finally landed on The Hyperlinked Public Library. As I read through the articles and watched the videos, I found that many of them had a similar thread running through them: the library needs to be what its community needs and wants. This sentiment, however, is not one that is present in just public libraries, but public libraries do serve a great variety of demographics. They must cater to the needs of young and old, wealthy and poor, high school, college, and elementary school education levels, as well as a myriad of interests and skill levels in these interests. As Marie Østergård so succinctly worded it, “Libraries need to be different all over the world and all over the cities” (Public Libraries 2030).

I was inspired by the many different activities and needs the different libraries worked toward for their community. The Westmount Public Library in Quebec, Canada, has created stores and digital archives from 40,000 postcards donated to them by their community (Baicco, 2016). This shows a need rooted deeply in history and understanding the background of the place’s identity. The innovation of spaces like this around the world drove me to look into different and unique library programs in other cities.

As one of my own personal interests lies in video gaming, I was impressed by Cleveland Public Library’s eSports initiative. It brings gaming, which is oftentimes thought of as an isolated hobby, into the community space by providing gamers with a way to meet each other and play together. Not only does the program allow users to meet one another and build community ties, but it also teachers them new skills like the strategy and collaboration skills through gaming itself, streaming software, how to work with gaming hardware (laptops, desktops, and consoles), and digital literacy. In addition to the skills users learn from gaming, this program also helps to bridge the digital divide, providing a space for users who may not have access to expensive gaming computers, consoles, and games, to enjoy the online world of gaming and competition.

In a strange and unexpected, although totally in alignment with library values, program the Newcastle libraries created a Crypto Party for their users. You might be thinking: how is crypto related to library values? The program itself intends on teaching safe browsing, Tor, and encryption (Clark, 2016; Haydock, 2016). As advocates for the free flow of information, digital literacy, and confidentiality, user privacy is extremely important to library values, and the seventh right in the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights (American Library Association, 2019). This program teaches new technology, a new trend, financing, and protecting one’s privacy in an age where private companies often monetize personal data.

These types of programs show the library’s advocacy for all users, even those with hobbies that are socially stigmatized. It shows a want to bring digital literacy to the forefront, that these public libraries are listening to their communities and attempting to bridge the digital divide and bring equality to their spaces. It is thinking outside just book clubs and children’s story times in an attempt to reach people who may otherwise not use library facilities. While traditional programs are very useful and continue to bring joy and engagement to particular groups, programs like these public libraries are creating inspire me to create and brainstorm ways I might reach those on the margins of the community together in the library.

References

American Library Association. (2019). Library Bill of Rights. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill

Baicco, L. (2016). Labor of love: Opening up archival gems for community engagement. Computers in Libraries, 36(4). Retrieved from http://www.infotoday.com/cilmag/default.shtml

Clark, I. (2016, October 05). Crypto party…in a public library…in the UK. Infoism. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://infoism.co.uk/2016/05/crypto-party/

ClevelandPublicLibrary. (2017, June 13). eSports and Celveland Public Library. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3OABsQA2yw

Haydock, A. (2016, May 30). What we learned from hosting our cryptoparty. Medium.com. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@alexhaydock/what-we-learned-from-hosting-our-cryptoparty-3950c9721f3e

Public Libraries 2030. (205, April 27). PL2020 Tour – Denmark – A knowledge hub for the community. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvFfbjs8aZo

3 comments
  1. The examples you share are amazing. I had not seen the Cleveland PL video before. It demonstrates what a gaming initiative can do taken to the tenth degree! I will add the video to our course! 🙂

    1. @michael I thought it was an amazing program, too! I think gaming teaches a lot of really great skills and I love that it helps bring kids who together who share a hobby that can be lonely sometimes. It also probably gets rid of a lot of toxicity competitive gaming can cause in online spaces and turns that toxicity into opportunities for collaboration.

      1. @britstrike Right – I hadn’t thought about the toxic competition angle.

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