I had the very great pleasure of attending several events at the SFU Public Square Community Summit, held over six days in September. The Public Square initiative was designed to “spark, nurture and restore community connections, establish Simon Fraser University as a go-to convener of serious and productive conversations about issues of public concern.” In this inaugural event, SFU focused on exploring civic disconnection and considering existing and innovative ways to strengthen engagement across community and cultural divides. The beautiful SFU One Voice video harnesses the power of music, performance and collaboration to bridge across differences and inspire meaningful connections across our diverse community.
A highlight for me was the “Oh, the Places We’ll Know! Big Ideas for Libraries in Communities” event which showcased ten ideas from community members. Ten project ideas were pitched about how libraries can expand their role in building community and advancing civic engagement. Ideas were plentiful and wide-ranging! We heard pitches for bookstores and “community pods” in libraries. For the creation of fanciful neighbourhood sharing library boxes. For a “think like a pirate” approach to subversive library activities(!). Also for making community connections through digital repositories and an ArtVan.
I was delighted by all of the wonderful ideas! And I was especially intrigued by Kevin Stranack’s presentation, “Facilitating Participatory Communities: an open, online, collaborative course for everyone, everywhere”. For years we have been acutely aware of the digital divide and have increased efforts in our libraries to address digital literacy issues. Kevin proposes a collaborative, cross-sector approach to a training and learning experience to address digital participation skills. The idea builds on the open learning platforms that are currently dominating the conversation around online learning.
Kevin presents his idea in the context of “Digital Divide 2.0: the Participatory Divide“. Indeed, to participate fully in this new global economy requires a whole new skill set that embraces 21st century fluencies. Preparing kids and supporting adults to work and learn collaboratively in an interdisciplinary way, and in so doing, to become a highly functioning digital citizen, is part of the work of libraries. In order to actively support the knowledge creation and meaning-making of our community members, we need to learn and use new tools and try some new ideas. At least part of the answer in addressing the new divide lies in modelling, teaching, supporting and facilitating that digital participation.
If you were unable to attend the event, SFU has generously made available the full length video! I encourage anyone who missed this experience to give yourself time to enjoy all of these creative and thoughtful ideas.
To view the event video, and for further details, see: Big Ideas for Libraries in Communities.