Saturday, May 7, 2016

What is the People's Design Library?

Jonathan P. Bell
INFO 266
May 7, 2016

Anzilotti, E. (2016, March 28). A digital library for all your community-building needs. CityLAB.

The article examines the recently launched People’s Design Library (PDL) of Texas’ buildingcommunityWORKSHOP (bcW). The community think tank bcW created PDL to give community members resources to address issues that commonly affect neighborhoods. The PDL has three collections: Guides, Inspiration, bcW Publications. Guides are “how to” documents addressing local issues; for example: How open space advocates can develop temporary parklets in the community? Inspiration offers ideas on how to make small but meaningful change in neighborhoods; Little Free Libraries are covered here. Publications are documents bcW has created during projects. A submissions page allows anyone to submit new resources under the appropriate collection. In this sense, the People’s Design Library is a true example of an evolving, decentralized, egalitarian library. Plans are also underway to open a physical library space at bcW offices in Dallas. The resources will give community members the tools and vocabulary to engage local governments more effectively.


I was pleased to learn about the People’s Design Library. From my experience in local government, I know that community members are often intimidated by bureaucracy. Red-tape drives people away. Community members have great ideas but often don’t know who to talk to, or how to explain their ideas when they reach the right people. The resources in the three collections explain the steps and language, thereby removing obstacles to conveying needs and ideas to local government. I’m fully in favor of any resource that makes it easier to create partnerships between government and constituents. PDL achieves that goal. While the initiative grew out of advocacy in Texas, the collections benefit any local community.

The three collections are still a bit sparse and the issues covered are limited to a few topic areas, but this is a new library and there’s room to grow! Providing a submission page so anyone can contribute is a brilliant element that ensures the library will continue to blossom. It's smart of them to open a physical library that does not have the technological requirement of internet access.

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