Knight News Challenge asks, How might libraries serve 21st century information needs

Communities / Article

The recent Reddit Ask Me Anything with John Bracken, Knight’s vice president for media innovation, started with questions on the library of the future.

One sample: “What does a day in the library look like when my 3-year-old goes to college?”

Bracken responded by painting a picture of how the physical space will change: “Buildings will likely be more crafted for physical interactions—more of an emphasis on experiences than on books. The notion of the shushing librarian will also be passé.”

The second Knight News Challenge on Libraries opened for submissions last week. Individuals, nonprofits, businesses, governments, libraries, anyone in the U.S. can apply by March 21, 2016 with an idea for how libraries can meet 21st century information needs.

The Reddit chat was intended to inspire and engage librarians, technologists and people throughout the U.S. to learn more about the Knight News Challenge, and in a two-hour time span on Monday evening, we certainly received a variety of input.

We fielded nearly 40 questions and comments about the News Challenge on Libraries, and questions related to the field—such as Bracken’s opinion on the recent nomination of Carla Hayden as Librarian of Congress (spoiler: He’s pretty excited about it).

Many questions focused on logistics for this year’s challenge. For instance: Why are so many applications U.S.-centric? We’re only accepting applications from the U.S. this round. And for those applicants worried about revealing their ideas on, they can email submissions or check out our FAQ on Knight’s IP policy. (However, we encourage open submissions so that applicants can benefit from feedback from the News Challenge community that might improve their idea or even enable them to find collaborators.)

Several participants asked questions about previous News Challenge on Libraries winners. Bracken noted several successful projects, such as Measure the Future and Make It At Your Library. But perhaps one of the biggest takeaways from Monday’s AMA was the News Challenge focus on collaboration, and that great projects can come in all forms.

“One thing we have learned,” Bracken wrote, “is that innovation can come from anywhere—that the constraints that come from working with limited resources can drive real change.”

Bracken and the Media Innovation team will be available for further questions about the challenge throughout March. We’ll also be at South by Southwest in Austin at the end of next week for a series of panels and office hours. In the meantime, you can listen to Bracken talk about the News Challenge on a podcast with Circulating Ideas, which you can listen to here.

The Knight News Challenge on Libraries will award $3 million for the best ideas that respond to the question, How might libraries serve 21st century information needs. Visit to apply, view our challenge brief, timeline, FAQ page, and applications from the first News Challenge on Libraries. Keep an eye on Knight Blog for updates, tips for applying and promotional events. You can also reach us with questions on Twitter via @knightfdn@heychrisbarr, or via e-mail [email protected].

Rosemary D’Amour is the digital communications associate for Knight Foundation. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @rosedamo.