FINDING THE FULCRUM
In order to realize the full potential of many of the initiatives put forth by the Evoke network and begin sparking real change, individuals on the ground need the ability to both access and share information. Libraries are critical spaces in the public domain that offer free information resources and services to communities. This Evokation suggests that we begin constructing libraries - thousands of libraries - that are re-imagined to be more appropriate for the 21st century. To make this work economically, each physical structure becomes a partnership between a centralized funding agent and the local community. The overall strategy is intended to balance local culture with digital culture, which will provide the duel benefits of access to global information networks while preserving the unique attributes of each community. Instead of creating 10,000 clone libraries, we create a process that creates 10,000 different libraries - each as unique as the people that create them.
Libraries are a social enterprise based on promoting self-improvement through access to knowledge. What makes public libraries special is that this objective is attained by a community pooling its resources in order to share them. People who have personally experienced this free access to information don't need an in-depth explanation of their benefits, yet probably would struggle to image their own life experience without libraries.
Libraries in the digital age function in a fundamentally different way then their 20th century predecessors. A basic assumption of the project is that once people have access to the library (and Internet), they will begin generating new knowledge. This is not my opinion - it is the way librarians I have interviewed tell me contemporary libraries operate. Once libraries start generating knowledge we have two types of crowd-sourcing:
1) digital knowledge - much like what produced right here on Evoke. While this type of knowledge is notoriously difficult to manage and monitor, it is the job of web platform developers to figure out the best way to organise and share this information. Here, we are just concerned with making the physical spaces used to by people to CREATE MORE knowledge.
2) physical artifacts - this is a bit more radical. When you look at contemporary libraries you can break down their collections into things that are "generic" (e.g. a copy of Moby D***) and things that are "unique" (e.g. local newspapers, one of a kind records, rare books, etc). Most of the generic stuff will be on the web very soon (if it isn't there already). If the information can be accessed digitally it may not be necessary to create 10,000 redundant physical book collections in Africa. instead, you leave access of those "generic" materials digitally and focus on building your physical collections around the "unique" materials. You find whatever unique materials you've got, continue collecting current unique materials, and invision the creation of NEW unique materials. In this sense, each project becomes a "library for rare books yet to be written." The librarians are in charge of curating the physical collection, and decide what gets added to it - which is basically how libraries work right now.
If we still believe in cities, we still need public space. Libraries are thought about as places of collective memory sites that fulfill our persistant desire for collectivity. In the digital age it is tempting to allow the physical constraints loosen, with the pragmatic notion that a broadband umbilical chord can create a library from an Internet cafe, school, town governmental offices, or community center. However, at their core, libraries are neutral locations in the city fabric that should accommodate all of these functions, equally, and without cost or preference to any individual group.
SPARK LIBRARY PLAN OF ACTION
Year 1 - assemble a multi-disciplinary team of strategists to create the design and economic formula necessary to create such libraries.
Year 2 - develop a short term strategy for the construction of a number of prototype libraries in communities in Africa.
Year 3 - begin answering grant requests from communities seeking libraries.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1.1 Libraries as Agencies of Culture
1.1.1 Library as Vehicle of Social Mobility
1.1.2 Women, Minorities, Children, and Migrants
1.2 The Changing Library
1.2.1 The Frontiers of Information
1.2.2 The State of the Book
1.3 Synthesis: Knowledge Commons
2.1 The Digital Divide
2.1.1 Who is on each side of the Divide?
2.1.2 The Reality of the Divide
2.1.3 Increased Knowledge Penetration
2.2 Strengthening Local Culture in the Face of Globalization
2.3 Post Script
3.1 Spark Library Partnership
3.1.1 Social Enterprise
3.2 Power Structure
3.2.1 Carnegie Precedent
3.2.2 Contemporary Players
3.3 Physical Infrastructure
3.3.1 Addressing Local Needs at a Global Scale
3.3.2 Open Building Systems
3.3.3 Typical vs. Atypical
3.3.4 The Elemental: a Case Study in Typical vs. Atypical
3.3.5 Applying this Model to the Library
3.4 Making Places of Collective Memory
4.1 Team Building
4.2 Web Presence
4.3 Fund Raising
4.4 Establish Non-Profit
With this proposal I would like to make the following requests, in order of priority:
1) Seed investment to start developing this social venture. I believe that proliferating a new type of library across Africa would be incredibly powerful and will increase the effectiveness of Africans to benefit from the wealth of online knowledge in addition to giving each community an additional public space for education. Nevertheless, it is an enormous undertaking and formal recognition of support from the World Bank Institute would be invaluable to launching this project.
2) Online mentorship would be highly advantageous, and I would be grateful for any mentor. Given the choice, I would be extremely interested in either Mr. Vis Naidoo of Microsoft South Africa or Mr. Paul Gabie of Orient Global, both of whom have specific credentials for education initiatives.
3) Travel funds to participate in the upcoming EVOKE summit in Washington DC would also be extremely useful. I am fascinated by the EVOKE process and am highly interested in the opportunity to meet see the faces of the people whose work I have already benefited from. I am also confident in my abilities to be an fully engaged participant in the summits proceedings.
D.O.B. July 21, 1980