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The People’s Media Collection

Community mediamakers take up residence in libraries to offer hands on media trainings culminating in collaborative live remote broadcasts.

Photo of Gretjen Clausing
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Describe your project.

The People’s Media Collection is a collaborative project between two vital civic institutions committed to providing equal access to 21st century tools of learning, communication and self empowerment -- the Free Library of Philadelphia and PhillyCAM, the non-profit responsible for operating the City’s public access television and a community run low power fm radio station.

PhillyCAM is uniquely positioned to partner with the Free Library to build more informed and engaged communities by connecting people through media production and distribution. Community media centers play an important role as places where people from diverse backgrounds come together to learn to tell their stories through media. PhillyCAM’s methodology fosters an environment that promotes public discourse, explores issues in-depth and redistributes power within the realm of communications media so that all people have the opportunity to make and share programs about themselves, their lives, and interests.

Philadelphia, the 5th largest media market in the country, continues to face devastating cuts and consolidation of local media institutions, leaving Philadelphians hungry for outlets for their voices to be heard and local information shared. This project will result in hundreds of people becoming active participants in amplifying the voices of their communities around issues that matter to them most.

It’s about transforming people from passive media consumers into active change makers through a travelling residency program that will place experienced community media facilitators in residence in library branches across Philadelphia to engage library users and staff in the creation of hyper local community media content. A long term goal being to build an online archive of local media content available for future reference.

PhillyCAM will bring a portable TV and radio studio packed with all the technology and tools necessary for a HD television and radio broadcasts to take place in between the stacks. The resident media facilitators will maintain a consistent presence over 2 -3 months in 4 branches during the first year of the project. Their charge? To build relationships between the library and the communities surrounding each branch.

The facilitators will first lead “listening sessions” with residents to identify local issues and community information needs. The facilitators will lead hands on trainings in basic field and television studio production, community news gathering, digital storytelling, audio recording and production using mobile devices such as tablets and cellphones. Workshops will be based on what each group of library stakeholders identifies as being most needed. Once the residency is over participants will be able to use their library card to check out a “media kit' that would include a tablet, microphone and tripod to continue creating content for submission to The People’s Media Collection archive and PhillyCAM’s cable channels.

How does this project advance the library field?

Libraries provide access to information, develop literacy skills, and build healthy informed communities. To advance the field libraries must adapt and grow to include digital fluency and media literacy, which are vital competencies for students and adults of all ages. Media production is what 'writing' looks like in the 21st century. It’s inherently collaborative and it helps develop critical thinking, requires problem solving, reasoning, analysis, interpretation and synthesizing information. Offering opportunities to engage in media making represents a means for library patrons to contribute and 'write' a new library into being.

The People’s Media Collection will support libraries in flourishing as places where residents can access local information in new ways by creating and crowdsourcing media created by peers in the community. These branches will become places where people can share their expertise and knowledge of their community/city. For example the culminating People’s Media Collection Live TV Show in a South Philadelphia branch could feature video essays by teenage Burmese immigrants, a live Q&A with the neighborhood’s Councilperson, a news story about the Indonesian community recycling cooking oil and a performance by a Mexican carnival orchestra. These are just a few examples of how library users and staff can engage with one another in new ways through these highly participatory media events.

At the conclusion of the residencies the relationship with the branches will continue. PhillyCAM will work with each branch to maintain the “media kits” and offer refresher workshops. This way trained library producers can continue to check out equipment to cover news or other events of cultural significance in their neighborhood. A long term goal is to increase the technical expertise and capacity of the library staff as it pertains to digital media production. PhillyCAM would consult with library staff on as needed basis to ensure that new work can continue to be produced and added to the People’s Collection thereby building a path to sustainability.

The project will be documented to develop a prototype for replication in other cities. PhillyCAM will share our findings with the Alliance for Community Media which represents over 2,000 community media and public, educational and governmental television stations across the country. We would share plans of how to build your own portable TV studio along with how-to videos, producer handbook and teaching curricula to support program replication.

The project will also include an expert in the field of library and information science (LIS) to develop an outcomes-based evaluation framework. This feedback will inform the project in process so that adjustments may be made. A final report will be written and submitted to the Knight Foundation and an article placed in an academic publication such as the LIS journal, which will also help to advance the field.

Who is the audience and what are their information needs?

The audience is first and foremost the residents of the neighborhoods where the library branches are located. Selected branches will be in neighborhoods most underserved and cut off from having their voices represented in mainstream media. These tend to be poor, communities of color, where there is a high percentage of new immigrants and many underemployed people. Philadelphia is not only the poorest large city in the United States it also has the highest rate of deep poverty this translates to 12.2 percent of the population, or nearly 185,000 people, including about 60,000 children.

Philadelphians, particularly poor and low income people, communities of color and new immigrants, face significant personal, professional, and community challenges. They lack communication outlets to express their points of view to others and places to gather in dialogue are too few. This project will strive to turn community members into agents of change positioned to define their needs, problems and solutions. The hyper-local focus will create powerful ways for people to surface, recognize, critique and build narratives in a way that can be truly liberating for the participants.

The People’s Media Collection will immerse participants in many 21st century skills that mesh with the goals of the Free Library to meet the huge needs of these communities. Participants of all ages and experiences will develop their voices, gain confidence, learn to work collaboratively, and acquire important technical and life skills they can apply in school and in the workplace. These media trainings and broadcast events present new ways to highlight library resources relating to job searches, job readiness, navigating city services, and availability of educational opportunities for youth and adults.

This project will bring into focus how libraries can be vital hubs for understanding and accessing city wide opportunities and programs. It can demonstrate to community members how they can count on their local library branch as a place to find out what is happening in their neighborhood. The information gathered about the needs of this primary audience will relate directly to how library services can contribute to a reduction in the high level of poverty in the future.

There is also an audience beyond the immediate communities surrounding the library branches and it extends to the entire City of Philadelphia. It includes the viewers and listeners of PhillyCAM’s cable channels, Comcast 66/966 and Verizon 29/30, and our soon to launch low power FM radio station on 106.5 FM. These two platforms represent a potential audience of over 1 million people in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Media Collection will be available online through PhillyCAM’s on demand server with a goal to create corresponding Free Library catalogue entries.

Please list your team members and their qualifications.

PhillyCAM Staff:
Gretjen Clausing, Executive Director, has worked for 25 years in independent media in Philadelphia as a media arts programmer and administrator at International House and Phila Film Festival, film curator at Prince Music Theater and Program Director of Scribe Video Center.

Laura Deutch, Director of Education and Production, is a media artist and educator working at the intersection of documentary, new media and participatory art. Her work focuses on community stories and place-based histories and has been showcased on tv, at festivals and in gallery settings nationally.

Antoine Haywood, Director of Membership and Outreach, has over 12 years of professional experience as a media educator, program coordinator and community outreach director. He is also an accomplished musician with more than 20 years recording and performing experience.

Project Advisors:
Debora Kodish is a folklorist and cultural worker. She was the founder of the Philadelphia Folklore Project, an institution devoted to cultivating folk arts as tools for justice, power and self-knowledge. Over the course of 27 years at PFP, Debora helped support over 350+ folk artists and cultural workers in developing their own work in folk arts and social change.

John Hauser is an IT consultant and digital media archivist from Eureka, CA. He founded the Community Media Archive, in partnership with the Internet Archive and Access Humboldt, where public access TV stations and community media centers can archive their video and have them automatically transcoded into MPEG2, H.264 and OGV formats. The CMA has grown to 79,000 videos from 63 access centers around the country.

John Pettit is Assistant Archivist with Temple University Libraries' Special Collections Research Center (SCRC). He specializes in digitization and management of SCRC's audio-visual holdings. He serves on the board of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Moving Image Archive and has worked in production, volunteer and advisory capacities with Termite TV, Scribe Video Center and Home Movie Day.

Program Evaluator:
Dr. Colin Rhinesmith is an Assistant Professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Oklahoma and a Faculty Research Fellow with the Benton Foundation. Colin’s research focuses on the role of community-based organizations, such as public libraries and community media centers, in promoting access to broadband technology and digital literacy training in underserved communities. His findings as the lead program evaluator on the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Hot Spots program, which was funded by a $760,000 two-year grant from the Knight Foundation, were published in a special issue on Broadband Adoption in the International Journal of Communication.

From the Free Library of Philadelphia
Sandy Horrocks, VP of External Affairs
Lynn Williamson, Chief of Neighborhood Library Services
Jenn Donsky, Coordinator of Neighborhood Library Communications

Organization name and location (City, State).

699 Ranstead Street
Philadelphia, PA 19128

Possible Library Branches:
Kensington Branch serving North Phila
Widener Branch serving North Central Phila
Northeast Regional Library and Tacony Branch serving Northeast Phila
Donatucci Branch serving South Phila
Independence Branch in Center City
Blanche A. Nixon/Cobbs Creek Branch serving West Phila

What are the obstacles to implementing your idea, and how will you address them?

1) Where does the collection live and grow? How do library users access the media?

One obstacle to implementing our project is designing the best workflow to build an archive of local media content available for future reference by residents throughout the city and beyond. Media management is an evolving challenge. It is critical that we work with librarians responsible for the digital assets and the IT department to determine the most seamless way to make the collection accessible through the Free Library’s online portal. We will consult with our colleagues at Access Humboldt, who have been working extensively with the Internet Archive to build collections of community media. The Internet Archive provides free public access to collections of digitized materials and would be an excellent home for the People’s Media Collection.

We would create an easy upload interface to the Internet Archive designed to collect consistently relevant metadata, keywords and descriptive titles. We would seek to integrate the collection with that of the Digital Public Library of America. The DPLA brings together different viewpoints, experiences, and collections in a single platform and portal, providing open and coherent access to our society’s digitized cultural heritage. This integration would provide an innovative example of a community media center working with a local library to share a local media collection through this national digital platform.

2) How is the work sustainable?

A second obstacle is how will motivated community participants continue to create content and add to the collection once the media residencies are complete? We will maintain a continued presence in the branches with a team of 'community media specialists' who can be local mentors, youth and adults to be available several hours a week for drop in support. Imagine a mini 'genius bar' of sorts where community media specialists and support staff can help library patrons continue to access the media production equipment, trouble shoot technical issues, and field general inquiries. Newcomers to the project will be able to receive on the spot training on how to use their mobile devices ie: tablets and cell phones, for media creation. Information on future pop up training sessions will also be available.

Relationships with the community stakeholders will also need to be maintained in order to continue supporting the neighboring community. Semi-annual media collection viewing parties will be held to showcase new additions to the collection and continue to build the Philadelphia Media Collection community of makers.

We will develop policies and procedures for how library users who have been engaged through this process can continue to create new media content independently. We will work to adopt best practices from the library field for implementing loans of media production equipment such as tablets and laptops.

How will you spread the word about your project? Who are you trying to reach?

The audience is first and foremost the residents of the neighborhoods where the selected library branches are located. Criteria for selection will include which neighborhoods are most underserved and cut off from having their voices represented in mainstream media. These tend to be poor, communities of color, where there is a high percentage of new immigrants and many underemployed people.

The Free Library of Philadelphia has extensive means of distributing information about their programs electronically and in person. We will work with the library’s marketing and communication departments to promote the program to as wide an audience as possible. We will look to the lessons learned from community engagement work used by the highly successful Key Spots program which placed Internet hot spots in 4 community centers in neighborhoods with high rates of poverty and lacking high speed Internet access.

We will cultivate a network of community partners surrounding each selected library branch. Project advisors will conduct fieldwork and outreach to identify themes, issues and people, and build trust with prospective participants. We want to ensure that this process is inclusive by design, respectful and fueled by vernacular and local traditions, both residual and emergent.

Partners will include social service, community development or arts organizations as well as schools, faith based institutions, recreation centers, community gardens, corner stores, restaurants, local businesses or any place where neighbors gather. PhillyCAM members who live near the branches will be encouraged to participate as project ambassadors and peer mentors by sharing their stories about how media making has impacted them.

We will work with a designer to develop a recognizable brand for the project and other associated printed materials such as flyers, branch signage, and other non-digital forms of communication. Materials will be made available in multiple languages if there is a specifically identified non-English speaking community using the branch. There would be an active social media campaign that will also serve as an important community building tool to continue to connect interested participants once the residencies are complete. We will seek to have print media stories run in neighborhood papers, with particular emphasis on ethnic publications. Promotional budget permitting we would place display ads in these publications or see about bringing these neighborhood papers on as media sponsors.

Our public access cable channels and low power fm radio station provide a very unique opportunity for us to spread the word about the project. In addition to running PSAs and underwriting announcements we can also use the channels to engage potential project participants and library staff in a public conversation on television, on radio and online, about the project and how can libraries serve 21st century information needs.

How much do you think your project will cost, and what are the major expenses?

The two year project would cost $210,000.

Major expenses would include:
Program Coordination - $50,000
Media Instructor Stipends - $50,000
Web Programming & IT support: $35,000
Program Evaluator - $20,000*
Promotion/Design - $20,000
Equipment (tablets, laptops, audio equipment, tripods, software licensing for up to 3 branch locations) - $15,000
Production & Events Supplies - $10,000
Translation - $5,000
Contingency - $5,000

* The fees include travel and accommodations to support four 1 week-long trips to Philadelphia to study and evaluate the program (total = $10k) + two summer salary fees at $5k each year. The formative and summative evaluations would be used to help inform the program’s development during the two years and to provide a final report at the end of the project, which could be shared with the Knight Foundation, Free Library of Philadelphia, and PhillyCAM.


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Photo of Mary

Very exciting and sensible! Would love to attend one of these field workshops at the branches :)

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