Magazine article Information Today

Inside the Knight News Challenge

Magazine article Information Today

Inside the Knight News Challenge

Article excerpt

* The Knight Foundation recently launched its second Knight News Challenge focused on libraries, which poses the question, "How might libraries serve 21st century information needs?" ( U.S.-based libraries, businesses, nonprofits, universities, or individuals were all encouraged to apply by the March 21, 2016, deadline. "The only prerequisite is to have an idea that advances how libraries provide information to communities in a rapidly evolving, increasingly digital world," the Knight News Challenge website states. "This is an open call for ideas focused on advancing libraries to better serve individuals and communities in the 21st century."

The challenge winners will be announced in summer 2016, when they will receive a share of $3 million in funding to make their idea a reality. The application deadline was a little less than a week after this year's South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas. At the #Idea-Drop House--the home base of lib*interactive, the group of libraries, archives, and museums (LAM) at SXSW--the Knight Foundation held office hours, during which attendees could meet with staffers to get guidance in refining their ideas. The Knight Foundation also sponsored a happy hour at a local bar and a breakfast at the house, where attendees could learn more about the Knight News Challenge.

Chris Barr, the Knight Foundation's director of media innovation, says the organization has had a presence at the conference for several years. "We believe it provides a good opportunity to network with and discover individuals and organizations that are doing interesting work in the technology and communications space. We are constantly trying to uncover new ideas, people and organizations that are looking for funding for projects that center on Knight's goal to build more informed and engaged communities," he says.

He got to know Bonnie Tijerina, co-creator of the #IdeaDrop House, when she received a Knight Prototype Fund grant in August 2015 ( grants/201551216), and the two decided to create some activities at the house, which Barr calls "a warm and inviting environment." If LAM professionals can't make it to SXSW, they can participate virtually via the livestream and social media. "We think the way that they have been curating experiences there for the library community is a smart way to build community and expose people to new ideas. It was an ideal place for us to promote the Knight News Challenge on Libraries," he says.

Barr sat down with Tijerina for a live-streamed Q&A session at the house ( In it, he explains how the Knight News Challenge works and offers tips on how to submit entries that will get noticed. Although this round of the Knight News Challenge is closed to new applicants, his advice can help anyone thinking about submitting a project for a future round.

Rewarding Library Innovation

The Knight News Challenge "started with a focus on the journalism industry to try to stoke innovation within that field. And since then, we've sort of moved into other areas where we see a role for providing the public with vital information," Barr tells Tijerina. "And we saw this pattern happen a couple years ago, where we kept getting libraries winning this challenge. So after that, we decided, there are these great ideas coming out of libraries, why don't we do a full-on library challenge?"

It's been more than a year since the first library challenge ( knightblog/2015/1/30/22-projectswin-knight-news-challenge-libraries), which asked, "How might we leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgeable communities?" This year's question--"How might libraries serve 21st century information needs?"--asks libraries to be responsive to all the ways people consume information. Barr says the library field is energized: "[I]t's a really opportune time to think about how we're going to address information needs as we become an increasingly digital society. …

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