I have spent this afternoon compiling research, models and reports on libraries and community engagement for a friend who is working with the Detroit Public Library. We recently had a great chat about libraries and engagement strategies and I was honored to be part of the conversation (when I was in graduate school, my focus was on community and civic engagement in public libraries, under the direction of Dr. Joan C. Durrance, since retired). I’ve also been watching Ken Burns’ National Parks series so I’m feeling a little patriotic right now.
My sleuthing around the Internet led me to an interesting 2005! post about the Copyrighting of Public Space (convergence of interests!). The article discusses how Chicago’s Millennium Park, with its famous bean, is an example of the practice of executing copyrights to art or architecture located within a public space (a city park). I find this practice and others, of privatizing public space and creating pockets of “this is mine!,” supremely disturbing. Though I think it’s rather ironic that the author of the blog features photos I presume s/he took that are 1) copyrighted all rights reserved and 2) not available as thumbnails on the blog itself. It underscores the importance for people to start thinking about these issues in a systematic way. I know this is an old example but here it is, still floating around on the Internet. It’s a reminder to me that when I believe in Something (the Public, for example), I should do my best to act on it and embody it in thought as well as deed. I’m only human and I screw up once in awhile in matching my vocalizations to my actions but I do try to align these.
I’m a steadfast fan and proponent of the concepts of The Commons and Public Goods and I believe that manifestations of these ideas should be employed throughout the U.S. (and other places) to encourage community-building and civic dialogue. American examples of this include our National Parks, Public Libraries, Civic Centers and Public Schools. These things are not free but freely available so that our nation can be composed of educated, thoughtful, and healthy citizens. We equally invest in them to support the development of our American culture and prosperity. As shared spaces, they can encourage innovation and collaboration but only if we as a community accept responsibility for maintaining and investing in them. Too often these institutions are stripped of funding, ignored, or marginalized because folks don’t see the advantage to having something that is created for and maintained by the people.
I’ll keep on doing what I can to support the public institutions and the ideal of what is means to maintain and support Publics. In the meantime, I leave you with a good (if long) read from the ever-thoughtful and relevant Cory Doctorow and a link to an organization I love to stalk:
- Doctorow, Corey. Lockdown: The coming war on general-purpose computing. Boing Boing. 2011. Accessed: February 5, 2012.
- Project for Public Spaces: A “nonprofit planning, design and educational organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities.”