Library as Platform, Library as Cloud …

In 2012, in Library Journal, David Weinberger wrote about how libraries should perhaps best be conceived as platforms, canopies, and even clouds — beautiful, and suggestive, imagery useful to help capture the emergent architectures of public libraries.

According to the 2016 18-month update of the City of Chicago Tech Plan, “Since the [new BiblioCommons] website’s launch in April 2014, CPL has seen a nearly 18 percent increase in website visits via mobile devices. Residents have been taking advantage of the new social features of the CPL site during the last year. More than 170,000 accounts have been created. Patrons have also created 5,458 lists, rated 50, 433 catalog items, and provided more than 3,100 comments” (p. 27).

At the same time, wifi use in Chicago Public Library branches has exploded. The number of wifi sessions at CPL branches has increased roughly ten-fold from January 2011 to January 2014 — from 334,230 sessions to 3,046,636.

All this social-media-enhanced participation indicates ways that CPL’s “One Book One Chicago” program is an example of a cultural “affinity space.” In their recent article “Everybody Reads: Reader Engagement with Literature in Social Media Environments” [Poetics 54 (2016): 25-37], Joachim Vlieghe, Jael Muls, and Kris Rutten argue that “social media environments allow people at all levels of experience and expertise to enter and leave these affinity spaces at any time, to participate in many different ways, to create and transform content, and to affect negotiations about expertise and leadership” (27). In Chicago, interested individuals participate in events around books and reading. Reading the same book at the same time and discussing it face to face with others is just one possible means of experiencing the “One Book” selection in the atmosphere of Chicago’s total uptake of the work over many months. This form of ambient experience of literature is something to which we ought to pay particular attention, and our project records as much of this cloud of data as possible at the moment. The wonderful variety of OBOC programming shows that Chicagoans come to their book program from many directions and contribute to it both in person and across a number of media.

 

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