This fall, the Knight Foundation issued an open call for ideas in the form of a new News Challenge. The foundation is seeking an answer to the question: how might we leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgeable communities? The challenge reads:

We view libraries as key for improving Americans’ ability to know about and to be involved with what takes place around them. The library has been a vital part of our communities for centuries—as keepers of public knowledge, spaces for human connection, educators for the next generations of learners. While habits are changing, those needs have not. We want to discover projects that help carry the values of libraries into the future. We don’t have specific projects in mind, and you don’t need to be a library to apply. This contest is open to anyone, from public libraries to universities to businesses, nonprofits and individuals. We believe passionately in the role libraries have played in helping people learn about and participate in the world around them, and want to support the next generation of that essential endeavor. What captures your imagination about the future of libraries?

Building on it longstanding interest in reimagining the library and on several years of work within our ongoing design studio Library Test Kitchen, metaLAB has submitted two proposals: LIBRARY BRIDGE and BOOK A NOOK.

LIBRARY BRIDGE is a device:

As the notion of the library expands to encompass the world of web repositories and electronic documents, much of the work of culture, education, social exchange, and civic action that was traditionally carried out in brick-and-mortar libraries becomes invisible or gets lost in the sea of the World Wide Web. The global grows but at the expense of local forms of knowledge and memory. Library Bridge is designed to physically instantiate, feature, and share such local knowledge and memory.

Library Bridge assumes the form of an inexpensive popup station designed to tie together local libraries across the analog/digital divide. Designed to broadcast otherwise invisible content creation, curatorial work, and programming carried out on the local level, it serves as a bridge between branch libraries within and across local library systems, as well as a bridge to national and international libraries such as DPLA, Europeana, and Google Books.

Library Bridge is composed of a quick scanning station, a battery of e-Ink displays, receipt printers, and a pair of webcam-enabled exhibition cases. Its content stream is “tunable” to local needs and interests, but draws its content from THE LIBRARY CHANNEL, a www broadcasting platform that collects, curates, and communicates library-based content, working in collaboration with local librarians and citizens.

Library Bridges can be “chained” together at a library site to feature different content streams. They can be deployed not only within libraries, but also in local historical associations, schools, and civic spaces.

BOOK A NOOK is a piece of infrastructure:

Book a Nook is digital infrastructure to help libraries activate their network of physical spaces for diverse uses, reaching those who might otherwise rely on commercial space for meetings, activities, and learning. Via an application programming interface (API), a set of functions that allows programs to connect to web services such as Facebook and Meetup, it will permit users to discover and book library meeting spaces. Book a Nook becomes an API for the seamless discovery and sharing of library facilities. Users will gain access to much-needed public space, while libraries will become integrated into the social fabric in new ways, better supporting a wide range of activities happening in their communities.

The comment period on this and other proposals is now open, so feel free to check in on the News Challenge at

- October 1, 2014