Common Libraries: stewarding intellectual property assets for community benefit

Proponents of the Common Libraries initiative believe there is an urgent and pressing need to evolve libraries so that they might underpin a 21st century knowledge commons – functioning as trusted and impartial platforms for the production, exchange and consumption of knowledge and know-how – in both tangible locations and virtual spaces. So, they are using their expertise in design, technology, community engagement and social enterprise to work closely with library service users and providers right around the world to that end; and, subject to a successful bid, that includes working in and around Matera linked to its efforts to become European Capital of Culture in 2019.

Their aim is to empower people to co-design and deliver new library services in our increasingly open source society, so that they are responsive to technological advancements and fast-changing local needs, as well as positioned to play their part in shaping emergent socio-economic opportunities. The explicit intention, then, is to revitalise the public library ethos and render library services more relevant, useful and sustainable in their appeal to (and involvement of) broad-ranging audiences, in particular, in our digital age.

The initiative flows from the drivers of change in UK library services, attempts elsewhere to reconfigure libraries as spaces to develop Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) skills, together with wider developments in the digital landscape. It is also coloured by the endeavours of the Open Source and Creative Commons movements, community-led libraries as well as the core team’s enthusiasm for hacking and making.

In the course of launching the initiative to engage a wider community of interest in Spring 2014, the team were encouraged to explore the potential for Common Libraries to draw upon the peer-to-peer and sharing economy movement in future – culminating in receipt of an international OuiShare Award. Helpfully, this reads across to the efforts of those who are re-imagining libraries as contemporary platforms or, else, seeking to enhance or evolve them through automated book share services and personal portable library networks (PPLNs) – such that they have already begun to iterate their starting point.


  • Libraries as spaces where communities can access support to publish their unique knowledge and know-how under a creative commons license and contribute to the Open Knowledge project
  • Libraries as knowledge exchanges – where communities can share their knowledge and know-how with one another in a practical and playful manner to build social capital
  • Libraries as gateways to a local community’s knowledge assets through \#humansearch

This is a Common Library – responsive to technological change but, first and foremost, people-powered.

The team is collaborating with public library services as well as communities of interest to establish Common Libraries in the UK – developing local partnerships, nurturing joint ventures and encouraging social innovation. But, they are keen to identify organisations right around the world who are self-organising access to knowledge and learning in new ways, and with whom they might usefully work in future.

This workshop will introduce the initiative, encourage a dialogue between interested parties to improve understanding of the library landscape internationally as well as question if/how best to steward intellectual property assets for community benefit.

Date: 2014-10-26 11:30:00 - 2014-10-26 11:30:00, Europe/London Time.



I’m in!

From the little I know Anne Marie since last year I was expecting a session on this.

I guess what we didn’t really go into at Lote3 is the process, namely how is the collaboration with public libraries working out? They say public institutions or services are the hardest to reform or learn new ways, so surely “empowering” must face some challenges. Do you have community connectors/ sharers/ hackers etc … people who are training and accommodating existing challenges with the needs of the future Common Libraries?

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Patterns of transition

Here’s a little note from me, happening to be the digital assets track curator (in cooperation with @teirdes, who might want to add her own remarks).

We have created a little writeup about how, in managing and maintaining the Digital Commons, we’re caught in the middle between DIY approaches and policy / legislation, with a lot of friction and contradiction involved between the two. I like the Common Libraries project a lot as it fits right into this, umh, conflict, as exemplified by the PPLNs hat you mentioned. Would be great (read: funny and intriguing for the audience even) to have many more practical examples like that :slight_smile:

I agree with @Noemi, reforming traditional institutions must be very hard. But I’m not proposing to stop at describing the challenges. Common Libraries will have a wealth of experiences and tips for aiding such a reform, and I’d propose you could put some focus on your patterns of transition: proven, generalizable ideas that can help transition from traditional to contemporary models, for one library, and maybe for copyright policies as well. (For the pattern format, see the writeup linked above. But don’t focus on the format too much, we’ll get this done while documenting your session.)

Works? Tell us any questions or concerns of course.