Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Significance of User-Created Content in Public Library Participation

Lara, Veronica
Abdullah, N., Chu, S., Rajagopal, S., Tung, A., and Kwong-Man, Y. (2015). Exploring Libraries’ Efforts in Inclusion and Outreach Activities Using Social Media. De Gruyter, 65(1), 34-47. DOI 10.1515/libri-2014-0055

Alfonzo, P. (2016). Snapchat in the Library: Librarians master an app to reach millennials. American Libraries, 47(11/12), 22-23.
Bernier, A., Males, M., & Rickman, C. (2014). It Is Silly to Hid Your Most Active Patrons: Exploring user participation of library space designs for young adults in the United States. Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, 84(2), 165-182.
Ford, A. (2016). Fellowship of the Fans. American Libraries, 47(11/12), 34-39.
Perrero, M. (2016). Marley Dias: Bringing diversity to kids’ books. American Libraries, 47(11/12), 26.

            In one of our early presentations, we discovered the technology being utilized by the libraries we study, respectively.  One element of this study was to determine ways in which libraries are utilizing Web 2.0 tools.  Web 2.0 is the trend of user-created content on the web.  An example of this is wikis.  Wikis are user-created online dictionary entries for various subjects.  We certainly don’t need an introduction to Wikipedia to understand this concept. 
            Libraries have been using Web 2.0 tools to encourage participation among their patrons.  In Abdullah’s, et al. article, Exploring Libraries’ Efforts in Inclusion and Outreach Activities Using Social Media, the authors state, “the Internet has undergone a transformation, from being a static repository of information to being a socially interactive Web” (2015, p. 34).  Social media sites are a place for creating and sharing content.  This is in stark contrast to libraries, which have often been described as “information silos.”  Therefore, the goal for libraries should be to create a more participatory environment for its patrons. 
            Several articles have reported on the ways libraries are increasing their presence on social media to boost participation.  Paige Alfonzo writes about a number of libraries that have utilized Snapchat as an outreach tool to bolster teen involvement in public library programs.  Alfonzo discovered that  teens are often featured in the snaps, by sharing their favorite book or to share what they are currently reading.  Other libraries also have contests to create Geofilters for the library.  This allows teens to create the content themselves. 
            But participation doesn’t stop with Web 2.0.  Libraries have been encouraging users to participate and create content in other ways.  For example, Marley Dias is one 12-year-old girl who launched a campaign to diversify the children’s collection at her school, after being dissatisfied by the lack of diversity in the required reading materials.  Her campaign, #1000BlackGirlBooks, as collected and donated 7000 books to six different cities.  In this case, Ms. Dias has taken it upon herself to guide the collection development of these libraries. 
            Programs are another way for libraries to bring in new patrons, and librarians have found a way to incorporate content creation in these too.  The North Liberty Community Library in Iowa has offered a program in which patrons come together to write fan fictions, share, and critique each other.  The point of content creation in this case is to encourage participation in a library program.  Patrons can think of the library as a place to commune and share ideas, rather than it being a place that houses books. 
            Relatedly, an article written by Bernier, Males, and Rickman discuses the library spaces themselves as a way to attract participation.  In the article, the authors state that Young Adult sections are a significant indicator of teen participation.  More specifically, they argue that higher teen participation in the design of Young Adult sections leads to greater long-term participation in teen services.  Their study includes the creation of an index by which to measure teen participation in design, which positively correlates to overall future presentation.  In other words, higher participation in creation of the space leads to higher participation over all.  User-created content, or even planning involvement, is shown to have a profound impact on the idea of ownership over the space.  This sense of ownership is what encourages participants to continue the tendency to participate.
            So what does this show us?  It has been documented in several studies that higher participation during content creation leads to better general participation throughout the library.  We should be thinking of patrons as contributors, and assigning new roles to what libraries offer.  Information no longer moves in one direction.  It should be disseminated, analyzed and recreated into new information.  Thinking of a library as a place to simply receive information is antiquated.  The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can tap into the wealth of information that is our community.
            These are just a few of the articles I have chosen to highlight in this post, but there is a plethora of literature on this subject.  If you find one, please share it here.  I would love to see other examples of user-created content.

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