Exploring the entries in Knight News Challenge: Libraries

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We started our Knight News Challenge on Libraries on Sept. 2 with a call for inspiration. We asked the question, How might we leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgeable communities? For the second year we used the OpenIDEO platform to facilitate an open and engaging conversation, while ultimately looking to spur more ideas.

Next week, we’ll name the semifinalists, but since the challenge closed Sept. 30, we’ve seen a persistence in the energy around libraries. The robust engagement and submissions have made for rich discussion and content for our readers as they tirelessly evaluate each of the 680 proposals.

It is not only our readers who have worked to make sense of these proposals. Many who submitted proposals, and others who are just intrigued by the ideas, are still reading, commenting and applauding submissions. One individual, Matt Miller (@thisismmiller) of the New York Public Library Labs, took his interest to the next level and unearthed valuable insight regarding this year's submissions.

Writing Python source code (available on GitHub here), Matt scraped all the submission data from the website, compiled it into a dataset and generated several visualizations. In fact, City Tracking, a 2010 Knight News Challenge winner, created the map tiles that Matt used to generate the analysis, Stamen’s Toner.

According to Matt's work, the Knight News Challenge received submissions from 46 of the 50 states in the U.S., plus the District of Columbia, an American Indian reservation and Puerto Rico. In addition to domestic submissions, there were also diverse international contributors, encompassing 5 continents:

  • North America: Canada (Ontario, Quebec and Winnipeg), the Caribbean Community nations  (CARICOM) and Mexico
  • South America: Paraguay, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador
  • Africa: Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Madagascar, Namibia, Nigeria and South Africa
  • Asia: Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Nepal and Japan
  • Europe: Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom
  • Oceania: New Zealand

Matt also evaluated the most frequently mentioned nouns, phrases and verbs used across all the submissions. The most frequently mentioned noun was “library,” followed by “community”; the most frequently mentioned noun phrases were “public library” and “public libraries”; and the most frequently mentioned verb was “provide,” followed by  “create.”

To take a look at these, the other visualizations or to download the complete dataset used to create Matt’s analysis please visit the New York Public Library Labs’ website.

Remember, through the end of the feedback phase on Oct. 21, applicants can still edit entries. Meanwhile, continue exploring the submissions and discussing how libraries can be a platform to move our communities forward. Matt’s project is a great example of how public contributions can enrich News Challenge discussions. We look forward to your adding to his work or finding another innovative way to keep this important conversation going.

Lucas Hernandez is a media innovation associate at Knight Foundation.

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