23rd January 2017
A week or so after our session with four library experts, where we began to unpick some of the challenges facing library services, we sat down again to start defining what our programme of work will look like.
We re-visited our original premise of active neutral space as one of the important ideas that will shape our work. The theme of neutrality came out throughout our discussion of what makes a libary important, and what the internet is currently failing at.
The internet seemingly offers access to all information, but the past 12 months remind us that the information that citizens discover and find can be polarised and distributed by the people they associate with and spaces they occupy, the commercial services they use and the whims of advertisers.
We need neutral, non-commerical spaces for discovery, learning and existing itself. Are libraries the answer to this?
What not to do
To help us answer this question, we needed a set of rules about what is off-limits to this work. Things about libraries that other people are already looking at, are just too massive to allow us to do anything meaningful, or help us to remember our audience. These are some bold assertions, but we think they need to be in order to really do something different and useful:
With this, we started to look in more depth at some of the ideas we had been throwing out and crafted them into some questions exploring neutrality, space and how people use libraries.
Space and neutrality
When we are in a library, how do we know that this space is public? What are the things a library would do, show, share, to demonstrate it’s actively neutral/public? And to that end, what would we need to put in a space that would turn it into a library. What is the minimum viable library?
Given that a large challenge libraries face is a reducing footfall, we want to look at how libraries could adopt commercial tools and behaviours? What if they used adopted branding and communication strategies that more often found in the ad world? And what it would look like if libraries integrated personalised recommendations into their service? Not just to push books that library users might like, but also wider community interests:
“You’ve borrowed 3 books about gardening recently, did you know there is a community garden looking for volunteers 0.3km from the library? Find out more”
If we don’t believe it’s necessarily about a room with books in, what does make a library? How is discovering information in a library different from using a search engine? How do libraries currently describe what they are and what they do, and is it working?
What we’re going to do next
We're going to continue to develop these questions, write up some discovery briefs, which will include how we will measure the impact of our work. The other thing we are going to do is get out to some libraries, start talking to people, and setting up interviews with more subject experts.
Doteveryone's principal partners are: