Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Beyond books: why you should check out your public library

April 10, 2012, 9:50 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation


The following op-ed, written for National Library Week, is co-authored by Paula Ellis, vice president/strategic initiatives at Knight Foundation, Deborah Jacobs, director, Global Libraries Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Julie Stasch, vice president of U.S. Programs at the MacArthur Foundation. Above: The Seattle Public Library, photo credit: Flickr user Joel Down.

For many of us, the public library will always be synonymous with books.

The books drew us to the library in the first place, helped us discover new worlds—both real and imaginary—beyond our day-to-day experiences.

Libraries continue to embody that same spirit of search and discovery, but in a manner that has been transformed as dramatically as the way we generate, share, and consume information. They make this new digital era available to all Americans.

In Chicago, for example, an innovative space at the main public library called YOUmedia lets any teen with a city library card have in-house access to computers plus video and audio recording equipment, to create their own content with the help of a mentor. At another YOUmedia space in Miami, workshops help teens think critically and creatively about their lives, by teaching them to publish an autobiographical digital story, or to visualize their favorite books. In a world where information is increasingly available, learning to analyze it, create it, and make it your own is a valued skill.

Minnesota Philanthropy Partners uses info projects to engage people around important issues

April 9, 2012, 8:53 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

This post is one of a series focused on how community foundations are investing in news and information projects to make an impact on issues they care about. The following video was filmed during Knight’s 2012 Media Learning Seminar, where five community foundations gave brief, TED-like talks on how the projects they launched are impacting their cities.

In the video above, Jennifer Ford Reedy shares how Minnesota Philanthropy Partners responded to rapid changes in the field to fundamentally change the way it’s addressing community issues from obesity to interfaith barriers.

Reedy cites the Knight-funded Minnesota Idea Open, a community challenge that asks residents for their best ideas for solving local issues. Residents then vote on proposals to name a winner. More than 10,000 people voted for their favorite idea in the second iteration of the challenge, which focused on water quality issues in the state:

“What we found is that people want to participate. It has made us rethink what it means to engage members of the community. [It has] also made us more accessible, collaborative and creative than ever before,” said Reedy.

Connecting Philly

April 6, 2012, 10:13 a.m., Posted by Donna Frisby-Greenwood

This week in Philadelphia, just ahead of Philly Tech Week, we helped introduce a new tool to the public.  It aggregates locations across the city that provide access to the Internet.

mapThe tool, called Connect Philly, helps people find free, or affordable, online access and also computer training opportunities. It allows residents to send their address via text message to 215.240.7296 and find the closest available Internet access point.

In a city, where according to a 2008 report, 40% of households lack broadband access, finding a connection is critical to promoting informed and engaged communities.

I had the pleasure of kicking off yesterday's launch with Technically PhillyJ-LAB, the city of Philadelphia, KEYSPOT and the Free Library of Philadelphia in City Hall’s Conversation Hall.  Brian James Kirk, co-founder of Technically Philly, demonstrated the website and SMS text application.  Chris Wink, co-founder of Technically Philly, moderated a great panel discussion on the progress that we’ve made in Philadelphia since the 2008 report as well as the challenges ahead.  The panel featured  Siobhan Reardon, president and director of the Free Library of Philadelphia, Brigitte Daniel, executive vice president, Wilco Electronic Systems, Charles Kaylor, visiting assistant professor in the department of geography at Temple University,  Bryan Mercer of Media Mobilizing Project and Bret Perkins, V.P. government relations, Comcast.