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The Wednesday Keynote: Digital Transformation in Libraries: Participatory Culture Hubs

Daniel Lee and Brendan Howley with Jane Dysart

Daniel Lee (L) and Brendan Howley (R) with Jane Dysart

Brendan Howley and Daniel Lee, Co-founders, Icebox Logic, keynoted the second day.

Daniel began by describing the digital transformation happening in public libraries, which expand the commons and are one of the last truly human places in a homogenized digital world that is becoming increasingly complicated: a “digital jacuzzi” or soup of contents. We should care about libraries’ role in mediating social and cultural change because they have diversity of voice, social equity, and transparency and accountability. Libraries are positioned to be a cornerstone and touchstone; they are a place where we can go and hear diverse opinions. In an open society, they are trusted repositories of community data. People participate in libraries; not “patrons”.  Libraries have a role to play in small business and entrepreneurship intelligence to help people start a small business, etc.

Brendan continued and said that we have the essence of the commons and all must have a learning experience. Our belief system must have an “oil change”. We are living in a culture of mass ADHD; there is accelerating media fragmentation. and  rarely an exchange of views. Libraries are not merely an antidote to “data-pointing” of human behavior in an age of Big Data. They are the heartbeat of human striving and are profoundly useful windows on our culture as well as contextual lenses for the communities they serve. They are curators and custodians of what makes us.  

Theories of media and alienation: voter apathy/cynicism about our ability to govern ourselves; libraries help people discover their individual voice. The problem with new media landscapes is that we are dealing with ever smaller audiences. Small data leads to “tribes” and local audiences. Everyone is a potential media channel and has a voice, which is a dissolver of “massification”.

What connects us all? Stories are a relational basis of the human network and are how we build relationships. Value networks drive community value co-creation. We are just beginning to understand how to co-create human value creation. Prosperity does not just deal with economics; it involves value and quality of life of the community.

Libraries are community data hubs. The OpenMediaDesk (OMD) projects share community dialog best practices. One of the first things we learn is pattern recognition. Librarians must tell “why”–why they are doing things. For example, one library used excess land to establish a barrier-free community access garden which was successful in bridging the generational gap between older and younger people. Storytelling is a community insight intelligence tool.

Icebox Logic focuses on learning by telling stories and establishing participating libraries as open culture hubs. A/B tests are powerful tools. We need to help introverts think creatively, learn to fail fast, weigh strategy, and be confident in their own abilities.

We are telling social stories and empowering the community as library advocates. The best local stories are cultural; they resonate most and network best because they are cultural and for everyone. Stories of the exceptional and the unique are all about local culture. They are about who we are and who we aspire to be. Stories of the exceptional in your local culture shared through library media are proof that the library is playing an exceptional community role. People don’t share numbers; they share stories.

Winning the ROI battle means sustainable funding. People respond when their stories are published in library media. Do this and you will see how much untapped loyalty and affection the community will reflect back to the library. The results are astonishing. The story is not about you; it is about your community: their achievements, aspirations, hopes, and dreams.

Demonstrating social media efficacy is easy if you know how. Even the simplest examination of social media metrics can reveal data that not most municipalities don’t capture, which has led to the creation of a “Digital Relevancy Index”: a capture of data showing how well your library is sharing its stories, how clean your website experience is for the users, and how your library’s media performance tracks vs. other libraries’ results.

In the fall, the OMD will be a part of a McMaster University third year course to train social science students as “citizen data journalists”. It will be a collaboration between the Hamilton, Ontario Public Library, Icebox Logic, and the university. The results will be published across the city.

Libraries aren’t buildings; they are the world, recast as searchable and safely experienced. They are not passive keepers of static culture; they involve personal growth, skills, and life transitions. Where else can these processes happen routinely in a public space? There is no underestimating the power of libraries to change lives.

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