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Knight Foundation Seeds 22 Innovative Library Projects
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Posted On February 10, 2015
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Open Data to Open Knowledge
City of Boston
$475,000 | Jascha Franklin-Hodge

Turning Boston’s open data collection into an accessible resource by working with Boston Public Library to catalog it and introduce it to the public.

Space/Time Directory
New York Public Library
$380,000 | Matthew Knutzen, David Riordan, Ben Vershbow

Working with local communities and technologists to turn historical maps and other library collections into an interactive directory for the exploration of New York across time periods.   

14 Knight Prototype Fund Award Winners

The following projects received $35,000 each to further develop interesting or promising ideas:

BklynShare by Brooklyn Public Library (New York; project lead: Michael Fieni; Twitter: @bklynlibrary): Enabling people to learn new skills through a service that connects knowledge seekers with experts in their own neighborhood

Book a Nook by Harvard University metaLAB (Boston; project lead: Jeffrey Schnapp; Twitter: @metalabharvard, @berkmancenter, @jaytiesse): Activating library public spaces for diverse community uses by testing a software toolkit that streamlines the exploration and reservation of physical library spaces.

The Community Resource Lab by District of Columbia Public Library (Washington, D.C.; project lead: Meaghan O’Connor; Twitter: @dcpl): Advancing the library as the primary anchor of an open information system that connects residents to essential health, human and social services.

Co-working at the Library by Miami Dade Public Library (Miami; project lead: Liz Pearson; Twitter: @MDPLS): Providing freelancers, entrepreneurs and innovators a collaborative space for co-working in Miami-Dade libraries.

Indie Games Licensing by Concordia University’s TAG Research Center (Montreal, project lead: Olivier Charbonneau; Twitter: @culturelibre): Prototyping models for the licensing and circulation of independent video games at libraries.

GITenberg by Project GITenberg (Montclair, N.J., and Somerville, Mass.; project leads: Eric Hellman and Seth Woodworth; Twitter: @GITenberg): Exploring collaborative cataloging for Project Gutenberg public-domain ebooks using the Web-based repository hosting service GitHub.

Journalism Digital News Archive by University of Missouri Libraries and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (Columbia, Mo.; project lead: Edward McCain; Twitter: @e_mccain): Ensuring access to digital news content through development of a model for archiving and preserving digital content that can be used across the country.

Maker Tool Circulating Kits by Make it @ Your Library (Chicago; project leads: Katy Hite, Amy Killebrew, Elizabeth Ludemann, Allison Parker, Vicki Rakowski; Twitter: @MakeItLib): Sharing the tools and technology of the maker movement by prototyping an equipment lending system—a process for sharing maker kits between libraries—that builds on existing interlibrary loan frameworks.

Making the Invisible Visible by Bibliocommons (Boston; project lead: Iain Lowe Twitter: @bibliocommons, @ilowelife): Prototyping an app to give patrons a deeper library experience based on the user’s location, interests and actions in the library.

Privacy Literacy by San Jose Public Library (San Jose, Calif.; project leads: Erin Berman and Jon Worona; Twitter: @SanJoseLibrary): Developing online tools which will help individuals understand privacy in the digital age and make more informed decisions about their online activity.

Information for Innovation by Kent State University Library (Kent, Ohio; project lead: Karen McDonald; Twitter: @KentState_LIB): Exploring ways to provide information services to local entrepreneurs and business counselors, to see what services they might need to reach their goals.

This Place Matters by Marshall University (Huntington, W.Va.; project lead: Monica Brooks; Twitter: @MUPlaceMatters): Exploring the potential of a location-aware mobile application to share African American history and link to library resources.

White Space 101 (San Francisco; project lead: Don Means; Twitter: @donmeans): Creating learning materials for libraries to explore and implement TV White Space networks to support remote library Internet hotspots that will give people wider broadband access, especially in crisis situations.

Your Next Skill by Seattle Public Library (Seattle; project lead: Jennifer Yeung; Twitter: @splbuzz): Helping people acquire new skills or expand their knowledge by creating a librarian-led, referral service that connects users with materials, classes and instructors that will help them meet their goals.

Sowing Seeds for Change

Since 2007, the KF has offered a variety of Knight News Challenges related to building more forward-leaning, knowledgeable communities in the U.S. It has received more than 10,000 applications and has provided nearly $50 million in funding to 133 projects thus far. VentureBeat notes that “in the spirit of these times, the Foundation’s announcement language sounds curiously like venture capital-speak. Eight of the projects receive what the foundation described as ‘investments’ ranging from $130,000 to $600,000, although the recipients don’t need to pay back the money. These projects are intended to advance major library efforts that could become permanent activities.”

“There is a growing demand for libraries to evolve their role and become more dynamic, living platforms, responsive to community needs,” explains John S. Bracken, the KF’s VP for media innovation. “The winners are working to reinvent the ways in which people experience the library, and providing citizens with the tools and information they require to contribute and strengthen our democracy.” In an era of extreme austerity, seed money for innovation is much needed, and all of these projects offer opportunities for new directions, services, and outreach.


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Nancy K. Herther, recently retired from the University of Minnesota, has been following technology and information trends since the 1970s.

Email Nancy K. Herther

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