August 23, 2022

Improving Digital Access to Local News Through Library-Newsroom Collaboration

In May, Library Futures completed a project with the Albany Public Library, Hearken, and the Albany Times Union to improve digital access to local news through collaboration with libraries and newsrooms. This three month pilot project established ties between the library, newsroom, and patrons. You can read our initial insights report at our website.

The program used public-powered journalism, a method that engages communities directly with journalists to cover otherwise overlooked or underreported stories. This pilot is the outcome of a larger project, initiated by Library Futures, with funding from the Google News Initiative and support from program design consultants at Hearken and MakeWith, whose aim was to explore possibilities for expanding equitable digital access to local news through library-newsroom collaboration with an emphasis on sustainable, low-tech solutions, library ownership of digital materials, and long-term relationship-building.                   

The decision to focus this collaboration on content production was made after completing a listening and co-design process conducted with the community and library stakeholders in the five months leading up to the pilot. This process combined desk research with surveys and listening sessions with 772 Albany residents, 21 Albany Public Library librarians, and other key stakeholders, resulting in this initial report on our website. A combination of insights from this process and feasibility considerations led the project team to identify a public-powered content partnership as the best option from a list of possible pilot ideas.           

Between February and May 2022, key stakeholders from Albany Public Library and Times Union worked together to solicit audience questions about the past, present, and future of Albany’s Pearl St. and to report on the answers to these questions over the course of several stories. The content produced through this collaboration was made freely available to the public outside of the TU paymeter and co- owned by both the library and the newsroom.       

"I never realized that community engagement of marginalized communities was a common goal for both of us"

Though the project team faced a variety of challenges and limitations in the execution of this pilot, it was ultimately a positive and successful experience for both the library and the newsroom. By recognizing their shared mandate to meet the public’s information needs and working together on a specific, time- bound, and low-risk project, a foundation was established for future collaboration between the library, the newsroom, and the public.               

This case study profiles some of the key decisions and activities of the pilot and is intended to serve as a replicable framework for other libraries, news outlets, and communities and/or jumping-off place for future experimentation and learning about the potential for collaboration between libraries and newsrooms.

Thank you to everyone who made this project successful, particularly Jennifer Brandel (Hearken), Aria Joughlin (MakeWith), Deanna DiCarlo (Albany Public Library), Rebecca Lubin (Albany Public Library), Casey Seiler (Times Union), Erica Smith (Times Union), Lee Colon (Times Union), and Turiya Autry (MakeWith).

You can read the case study at our website.

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