The Library as a Newsroom

As a former tech reporter and current MLIS graduate, the intersection of libraries and journalism fascinates me. Really, the two go together perfectly: journalists seek factual information while libraries provide the resources to find it.

Last week, I wrote about open web collection development tools, which included Library Journal's excellent Infodocket website. Gary Price, the editor, is vigilant about finding free and inexpensive tools for reference, research, and fact-checking. He recently shared The Information Verification Handbook, a free resource for journalists. The handbook was published by the European Journalism Center.

The media is rapidly changing and more publications are using a decentralized newsroom approach. Furthermore, freelance writing and self-started blogging has seen an uptick. There have been articles about libraries as coworking spaces, but I started thinking about as libraries as newsrooms. Perhaps not newsroom in the traditional sense where reporters shout story pitches, but the library can serve as a place where people can do research, write, and have access to multimedia and publishing tools.

Curate Your Resources for Bloggers Journalists

Chances are your library already has many tools and resources journalists use for fact-checking and research. If you have a media lab, freelance journalists who are producing their own videos and photos could certainly benefit from it.  But do they know that? I asked a few of my old journalist colleagues if they ever worked at the public library over Twitter. Here are some of the responses:

  • "I used to when I was just starting freelancing and couldn't afford a latte."
  • "Nope. Though I'd be interested to know if library ref. can help me get info I need, that I can't get online."
  • "I did once. I think the Internet was out at my house and I wanted a quiet place to work."

One way to get the word out about your library's resources is to curate a page on your website of tools and resources for journalists. You could also put together a one-sheet information page of the reference resources you offer for those writers who come to the library because they don't want to buy anymore lattes. 

Another idea is to start a community newsroom at your library. It doesn't have to be a permanent fixture, but you could have a weekly event for assisting local writers with news publication. This would entail reserving a room (perhaps a computer lab or a media lab if you have one) for writers and providing the digital tools they might need, such as video editing equipment, word processing software, and information about library resources.  Read about Digital First Media's community newsroom project, which launched in 12 public libraries across the country.     

Meet Your Local Bloggers and Journalists

One of the best collaborations I've seen is between blogger Burrito Justice and the San Francisco Public Library. The local history blogger has been using the SFPL's photo archives to build maps of neighborhoods through the years. While some writers might take the initiative to dig through your archives, many are probably unaware of what you have. 

Holding an open house for press could be a great way to introduce bloggers and journalists to your library. Beforehand, consider what kinds of archives your library has and how they might be of interest to journalists or local bloggers.

At TechSoup for Libraries, we're constantly emphasizing the importance of partnerships with nonprofits, city government, and other key stakeholders in your community. Local media should be another to add to the list.

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