Bridging The Divide: An Alternative Proposal

By Stephen Michael Kellat, MSLS
Head Writer, Erie Looking Productions

It has been discussed in blog posts, columns, and episodes of LISTen: An Podcast that regulation may not be the best way to bridge the digital divide. Some thoughts were obliquely mentioned at times as to how to carry out alternative measures for ameliorating the divide. Now is perhaps the time for some specifics for one facet.

Part of the problem with the whole digital divide view of things is that it insists upon rugged individualism in interacting with data. Quite unlike visiting a swimming pool, there are no lifeguards to jump in and save you when you drown in the sea of information. Economies of scale that can be derived from changing individual experiences into group experiences become of further interest as this drowning in information goes on.

For the consumption of online audiovisual content, it can be expensive putting personal media players let alone appropriate network connections into the use of every individual. Even the experience of having a television in everyone's bedroom in a home is a relatively recent phenomenon. As NCM Fathom has already shown through continuing to operate as a going business, people will gather together for communal experiences in watching programs. There are at least three movie theaters within easy driving distance of the eastern operations of Erie Looking Productions where one can watch the February 4th simulcast of the live production of A Prairie Home Companion.

The question then is how to do this sort of thing at your own libraries. Surprisingly some popular web video productions are available under Creative Commons licensing. Assuming you have your general ASCAP/BMI style licensing in play you may be able to show some of these programs without problem. Check with your library's legal counsel first to make sure that everything is in order, though.

The first matter of concern is selecting what to show. News feature program Rocketboom is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Many releases from the White House are public domain and give you uncut views of what President Obama actually said compared to the editing decisions of a video editor. More than that is out there but it is up to you to choose it.

The second step after you choose your content to show is to select resources in your library that highlights what is in the video content. Why leave it all to video? There is a world beyond and quite likely it is already on your shelves somewhat. This is the time when reference librarians can sharpen their group speaking skills and also introduce people to resources that would not normally be touched upon in one-on-one reference transactions.

After selecting your video, finding your books, and picking somebody to speak you still have two things left to do. First and foremost you have to promote the event. If nobody know it is happening, does it really matter outside of just being wasted labor costs?

Once you promote the event sufficiently, put your best foot forward. Popcorn might even be called for and might be something a friends organization, if it exists, could help with. The biggest thing to remember in putting on the show is that the library is but one beach on the sea of knowledge that thankfully has lifeguards the others most often do not. The key distinctive for libraries in this respect that allow for differentiation is the focus on service to the information seeker that the seeker will not be getting from a computer system like Bing or Google.

Once upon a time news reels were collective experiences where people saw moving pictures from beyond their own town. After a period of varying degrees of rugged individualism, economic pressures may make communal experiences more prevalent again. Until somebody takes the plunge and tries to implement something along these lines, though, who will ever know?

Creative Commons License
Bridging The Divide: An Alternative Proposal by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.