CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Famed columnist and free-press advocate John Nichols will lead a public discussion about new roles for libraries during a Thursday, April 7 evening symposium at the Cambridge Public Library, beginning at 7 p.m.
The free, public event will wrap up a two-day inquiry, "Beyond Books: News, Literacy and Democracy in America's libraries," involving more 130 librarians, journalists and scholars gathered at the MIT Center for Future Civic Media. (www.biblionews.org )
Besides speaking himself, Nichols will convene a discussion of the best ideas emerging from the MIT-hosted gathering. The evening will include a chance for the public to sit in breakouts with "Beyond Books" participants to add their thoughts.
"For three centuries, in American communities, two institutions have uniquely amrked a commitment to participatory democracy, knowledge and open inquiry -- our libraries and our free press," says Bill Densmore, co-convenor of the MIT event and director of the New England News Forum. "How can they work together?"
Nichols, who is based in Madison, Wis., but is also Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine, will put the role of libraries in the context of what's happening to the flow of information on the web, and how that affects citizen participation, whether in Egypt, Iran, Libya or the Wisconsin state capitol.
Nichols is in Boston to co-host the National Conference for Media Reform (NCMR), a project of FreePress.net, a non-profit he co-founded. The NCMR is expected to draw thousands of people to South Boston on April 8-10 for dozens of breakout sessions and plenaries. See: http://conference.freepress.net for more.
"In cities and towns across the nation access to information is becoming more complicated, and more technical," says Densmore. "At the same time, local news coverage is often more limited, or at least more fractured. Librarians may be able to help the public, help journalists, and help citizens who want to assume a watchdog role abandoned by journalism."
Densmore said the evening will be intentionally interactive among Nichols, the "Beyond Books" MIT participants, and the public. He said the evening should end with additional ideas for journalist-librarian collaboration.
Some questions being asked at the MIT gathering: What does engagement mean to journalists and librarians, and when does engagement become partisanship? What might libraries do to facilitate community social news networks? Must free speech be absolute within a tax-payer supported institution? How can libraries advocate for a free, digital-information commons?
Public Discussion: "BEYOND BOOKS: News, literacy, democracy and America's Libraries -- Assessing the common mission of journalists and librarians." April 7, 2011, 7-9 p.m., Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway, Cambridge, Mass. Admission free. Info: http://www.biblionews.org
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Bill Densmore, director
The New England News Forum
108 Bartlett Hall / Univ. of Massachusetts
Amherst MA 01003
OFF: 413-577-4370 / CELL: 413-458-8001