Five Reasons to Crowdsource the Library
We nurture and develop our staff for innovation so we can transform and grow, but has your library ever considered reaching out to the crowd for the transformation it seeks? If we approach our communities as partners rather than patrons, perhaps we can better serve them by creating the 21st century participatory library of the future for which we’ve all been pining.
So, why consider crowdsourcing the library?
- Because crowdsourcing is a 21st century skill and we want 21st century libraries.
- Because crowdsourcing can create massive digital content resulting in greater data discoverability and value-added content (through tagging and annotations).
- Because crowdsourcing creates engaged user groups and we want to engage with our communities.
- Because crowdsourcing helps libraries achieve goals it would never have the resources to complete on its own.
- Because crowdsourcing requires a level of trust and loyalty to the organization inherent in libraries and their communities.
While librarians are familiar with the broad concept of crowdsourcing we might not readily understand the potential implications for public libraries of the future. And in the end, we just might develop an engaged, involved user group formerly known to us as “patrons” who are ready to take part in the type of meaningful participation crowdsourcing allows.
Crowdsourcing is not new, in fact, we first heard about it over ten years ago. As defined by Merriam-Webster, it is the “practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.”
Innovative librarians with crowdsourcing skills must develop the framework, platform, or strategies that allow crowdsourcing to flourish in public libraries. I’ve outlined some high profile digitization projects that you’re probably already familiar with, but have you ever considered crowdsourcing library services such as collection development or reference?
Take for example, collection development. Isn’t patron-driven acquisition a form of crowdsourcing collection development? [See Chicago Public Library PDA grant-funded crowdsourcing collection development —http://www.ala.org/alcts/resources/z687/cplpda1].
And, how about applying crowdsourcing to answering reference questions, which has been done outside of the library field [See Crowdsourcing Reference Help: Using Technology to Help Users Help Each Other by Ilana Stonebraker and Tao Zhang http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/conferences/confsandpreconfs/2015/Stonebraker_Zhang.pdf]
Crowdsourcing has been used successfully in many high profile library projects such as New York Public Library’s Labs, in which they have opened projects to researchers to crowdsource digital map and menu collections. [see How the NY Public Library Crowdsources Digital Innovation at http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2488220,00.asp].
Along the same lines, the Smithsonian has created a Transcription Center where they have placed an open call for digital volunteers (even coining their own Twitter hashtag #volunpeers). They are currently recruiting for help to transcribe the William D. Stone General Store Ledger Book, 1865-1867 [https://transcription.si.edu/project/7669] where one will “gain a first-hand knowledge about the needs of people and businesses returning to their lives after the Civil War.”
I would love to hear your thoughts about how you think this could work in your library. What would your library look like if you crowdsourced it?
For more information:
Holley, Rose. “Crowdsourcing: How and Why Should Libraries Do it?” D-Lib Magazine,
March/April 2010, Volume 16, National Library of Australia.
[http://www.dlib.org/dlib/march10/holley/03holley.html]. Accessed 8/13/2015.
Howe, Jeff. The Rise of Crowdsourcing. Wired, Issue 14.06, June 2006.
[http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/14.06/crowds.html] Accessed 8/13/2015
Matthews, Steve. “Crowdsourcing – A New 21st Century Library Skill.” 21st Century Library Blog, June 29, 2011. http://21stcenturylibrary.com/2011/06/29/crowdsourcing-%E2%80%93-a-new-21st-century-library-skill/ Accessed 8/13/15.
Tags: 21st century libraries, 21st century skills, crowdsourcing, digital volunteers, libraries of the future, participatory libraries, social engagement, transformative libraries, virtual volunteering, web 2.0, wisdom of crowds