04 December 2007

libraries as platforms for user-generated content?

Kathryn at Librarians matter poses an interesting question: Should libraries host user-generated content?

My first instinct is to say "of course not; we don't have the resources."

But is that really true? How much would it cost to set up a blogging environment for users, for example? A couple of old PCs? Running Linux, of course, which might incur some costs in terms of staff training. Some staff time to provide maintenance for the machines, generally police the content (if necessary), and provide (minimal) support for users? Bandwidth?

Sure, this might be beyond the means of many smaller libraries, but we're not exactly talking big bucks either. And with many libraries becoming part of large consortia, the costs could be shared with other member libraries.

So no, not impossible at all.

But what benefits could this provide?

Well, the biggest one I can think of is to serve the community: Libraries, and especially public libraries, are at the centre of a web of social and community relationships already. Sure, they're storehouses for books and the like, but that really is the shallowest reason for a library (you may as well pack all the books in boxes and send them to a warehouse if that's all you want out of a library).

Libraries are places where anyone in the community may come in and mingle and socialise (quietly, of course) with other members of the community. They are often places where local history is on display. They represent a physical manifestation of the local culture (microculture?) of a community. They already provide resources for local groups; not just bibliographic materials like books and periodicals and access to databases, but also meeting spaces and other resources. Local history groups and genealogy groups are often based at or run by local libraries.

So why not provide the means for the local communty to express itself through a trusted community web space?

1 comment:

Crystal said...

YP has already gone down this road, if you go to their webpage you'll see four different blogs. None of which are very interesting and none of which have generated much community involvement.

Add to Technorati Favorites View carlos lopez's profile on LinkedIn