Knight News Challenge awards $1.6 million for ideas that help libraries serve 21st century information needs

Press Release

June 23, 2016


Knight News Challenge Winners 2016: Libraries from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

Orlando, Fla.—June 23, 2016— The 14 winners of the Knight News Challenge on Libraries announced today by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation aim to help shape the future of libraries, meeting 21st century information needs as centers for digital learning, data sharing, community connection and discovery.

The winning ideas highlight libraries as essential to addressing information challenges and creating new opportunities for communities to engage with ideas and each other. They position libraries as digital age problem-solvers tackling issues from information literacy for children, to using technology tools to make library collections more accessible and open, to giving people the resources they need to tell deeper stories about their lives and communities. Five of the projects will receive investments of between $150,000 and $393,249 each, while nine will receive $35,000 each to test early-stage ideas.

“The winners show the potential of libraries to innovate and reinvent themselves in response to ever-evolving information needs. We hope they will inspire more innovation in the space and help highlight the many ways libraries can connect communities in the digital age,” said John Bracken, Knight Foundation vice president of media innovation.

Launched in February, the Knight News Challenge asked for ideas that serve 21st century information needs, recognizing libraries as vital institutions that can play an essential role in building more informed and engaged communities.

The winning projects include:

Improve Access to Knowledge and Empower Citizens: Amplify Libraries and Communities through Wikipedia | Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) | $250,000 | Project leads: Sharon Streams and Merrilee Proffitt | Twitter: @oclc, @thinktower, @merrileeiam | Seattle Making library resources more accessible to Wikipedia editors and engaging librarians as contributors to Wikipedia through a national training program that will include community outreach to increase local information literacy.

Our Story: Content, Collections and Impact in Rural America | Historypin | $222,245 | Project leads: Jon Voss and Emily Gore | Twitter: @Historypin, @dpla, @jonvoss, @ncschistory | San Francisco

Allowing libraries to show their impact on community well-being by measuring the effects of public library-led history, storytelling and local cultural heritage programs in three rural American communities.

Storytellers Without Borders: Activating the Next Generation of Community Journalists Through Library Engagement | Dallas Public Library | $150,000 | Project leads: Jo Giudice and Tom Huang | Twitter: @dallaslibjo, @dallaslibrary, @tomthuang, @dallasnews | Dallas

Helping high school students connect with the Dallas Public Library through a training course on digital media and journalism that builds skills and grows their awareness of the community. The project partners with The Dallas Morning News to provide students with professional mentorship and online publication opportunities.

TeleStory: Library-Based Video Visitation for Children of Incarcerated Parents | Brooklyn Public Library | $393,249 | Project leads: Nicholas Higgins, Odette Larroche-Garcia, Nick Franklin and Story Bellows | Twitter: @BKLYNlibrary | New York

Increasing childhood literacy by offering video story time and visitation services for children of incarcerated parents in the trusted space of public libraries.

Visualizing Philanthropic Funding for Libraries | Foundation Center | $300,000 | Project leads: Amanda Dillon and Kate Tkacik | Twitter: @fdncenter, @katetkacik, @gobbledyquack | New York

Helping libraries find funding opportunities, increase understanding of funding sources, and track funding trends through a data visualization tool and capacity-building training.

Full project descriptions for these five projects are at the bottom of the release.

The nine projects receiving $35,000 each to test ideas include:

ATL Maps | Georgia State University| $35,000 | Project leads: Brennan Collins and Megan Slemons | Twitter: @ATLStudies | Atlanta

Enabling people to use multiple library collections to tell stories about their city through open source software that combines archival maps, geospatial data and multimedia pinpoints. Emory University is a partner on this project.

Can I Fair Use It? Crowdsourcing Fair Use Knowledge | Harvard University | $35,000 | Project leads: Kyle K. Courtney and Jack Cushman | Twitter: @HarvardLIL, @KyleKCourtney | Cambridge, Massachusetts

Enabling people to share information on questions of copyright and fair use by exploring existing gaps and opportunities, and testing a new approach for libraries to connect patrons with subject experts.

Digging DEEP: A Digital Extension Education Portal for Community Growth | Pennsylvania State University | $35,000 | Project leads: Rebecca Kate Miller, Lauren Reiter and Maria Kenney Burchill | Twitter: @psulibs, @rebeccakmiller, @mkburchill | State College, Pennsylvania.

Connecting academic libraries to local community needs by developing a portal for information, research, resources and sharing.

Free Library of Philadelphia Cultureshare | Free Library of Philadelphia | $35,000 | Project lead: Autumn McClintock | Twitter: @FreeLibrary | Philadelphia

Advancing local engagement and strengthening community connection to untapped library collections and new work from local artists by introducing subscribers to librarian-curated digital content on a monthly basis.

Future-proofing Civic Data | Temple University | $35,000 | Project lead: Joe Lucia | Twitter: @TempleLibaries, @jplucia | Philadelphia

Exploring ways libraries can support preservation and long-term access to open civic data through community information portals such as OpenDataPhilly.

Indigenous Digital Archive | The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture | $35,000 | Project lead: Anna Naruta-Moya and Daniel Moya | Twitter: @NativeDocs, @MNMF, @NMM_IndianArts, @AnnaNaruta | Santa Fe, New Mexico

Helping people more easily access and engage with mass digitized archival documents and photos through tools that enable people to annotate, tag and make searchable archival materials.

Literacy, Art, Technology and Community | Storyscape | $35,000 | Project lead: Micah Eckhardt | Twitter: @storyscape_tech,  @micahrye | Cambridge, Massachusetts

Increasing literacy and engaging communities by piloting StoryScape, an interactive learning platform that allows users to create visual stories about their communities with artwork from local artists, in public libraries.

The People’s Media Collection | PhillyCAM | $35,000 | Project lead: Gretjen Clausing | Twitter:  @PhillyCAM | Philadelphia

Offering media training in libraries through a program that engages community members to gather information about their communities and create broadcast content. 

Unlocking Film Libraries Through Discovery and Search | Dartmouth College | $35,000 | Project leads: Mark Williams and Lorenzo Torresani | Twitter: @dartmouth | Hanover, New Hampshire

Making film and video housed in libraries more searchable and discoverable by testing software that will annotate speech, objects and actions in film.

The Knight News Challenge on Libraries launched in February 2016. In January Knight announced 17 winners of the Knight News Challenge on Data which sought ideas that make data work for individuals and communities.

The Knight News Challenge accelerates media innovation by funding breakthrough ideas in news and information. Since 2007 Knight Foundation has provided more than $53 million in funding to 210 projects through the News Challenge. In addition to funding, winners receive support from Knight’s network of influential peers and advisers to help advance their ideas. Winning projects and final award amounts are subject to the signing of final grant agreements.

Past News Challenge winners have created innovative solutions aimed at building more informed communities and a stronger democracy. They include: DocumentCloud, which analyzes and annotates public documents, turning them into data; Tools for OpenStreetMap, which makes it easier to contribute to the editable map of the world; and CODE2040, which creates programs that increase the representation of blacks and Latinos in the innovation economy.

For more, visit and follow #newschallenge on Twitter.

Full descriptions for projects that will receive investments of $150,000 to $393,249 each:

Winner: Improve access to knowledge and empower citizens: Amplify libraries and communities through Wikipedia | Seattle

Award: $250,000
Organization: Online Computer Library Center (OCLC)
Project leads: Sharon Streams and Merrilee Proffitt
Twitter: @oclc, @thinktower, @merrileeiam

Wikipedia is an important information resource, attracting up to 15 percent of all internet visitors per day. Volunteer Wikipedia editors (“Wikipedians”) work collaboratively to make knowledge accessible to all. However, many quality information sources are out of reach to people due to the digital and economic divide. Public libraries provide free, open access to trusted materials, and in many cases house important local information resources. This project will launch a national training program to help make library resources more accessible to Wikipedia editors and train library staff as editors. OCLC Research Program Officer Merrilee Proffitt and the WebJunction team will work with a Wikipedian-in-Residence to build library staff skills in creating and editing Wikipedia articles. With these skills, librarians will be equipped to lead local Wikipedia outreach programs to increase information literacy and encourage community member contributions of knowledge. 

Winner: Our Story: Content, Collections and Impact in Rural America | San Francisco

Award: $222,245
Organization: Historypin
Project leads: Jon Voss and Emily Gore
Twitter: @Historypin, @dpla, @jonvoss, @ncschistory

While libraries and cultural heritage organizations are important to communities around the world, their overall impact on community well-being is difficult to track and measure. Our Story will launch a national pilot that partners with 12 rural American communities across three states in New Mexico, North Carolina and Louisiana to host public library-led history, storytelling and local cultural heritage programs, and measure the impact of these events on local communities. The project will also adapt and incorporate curriculum from Digital Public Library of America’s Public Library Partnership Project, which was created to help small public libraries build digital collections. Libraries will receive tools for running community initiatives such as sentiment-mapping, digital storytelling and exhibit creation, and librarians will receive training and lightweight methods of data collection.

Winner: Storytellers Without Borders: Activating the Next Generation of Community Journalists Through Library Engagement | Dallas

Award: $150,000
Organization: Dallas Public Library
Project leads: Jo Giudice (Dallas Public Library) and Tom Huang (The Dallas Morning News)
Twitter: @dallaslibjo, @dallaslibrary, @tomthuang, @dallasnews

Library and journalism professionals are increasingly having to adapt to an information landscape that is in constant flux. To reinforce the community’s stake in the strength of its information resources, the Dallas Public Library will host an intensive community journalism course that provides area high school students with opportunities to grow their information literacy while enhancing public discourse. Library resources and services will serve as the foundation for the course, with branch locations in diverse neighborhoods operating as research centers, technology hubs and venues for interviews with community members. Under the guidance of professional librarians and journalists from The Dallas Morning News, students will be taught journalism best practices, as well as the craft of nonfiction writing and storytelling, while gaining valuable experience using library technology and research tools.

Winner: TeleStory: Library-Based Video Visitation for Children of Incarcerated Parents | New York

Award: $393,249
Organization: Brooklyn Public Library
Project leads: Nicholas Higgins, Odette Larroche-Garcia, Nick Franklin and Story Bellows
Twitter: @BKLYNlibrary

To increase childhood literacy and provide a trusted environment in which children can connect with their incarcerated parents and other family members, Brooklyn Public Library will offer free, quality library-based video visitation services in 12 branches for families who wish to read books, sing songs, visit and stay connected. By providing multiple library access points across the area, the library will help separated families easily and frequently visit and read together,  creating a bridge back to the community. 

Winner: Visualizing Philanthropic Funding for Libraries | New York

Award: $300,000
Organization: Foundation Center
Project leads: Amanda Dillon and Kate Tkacik
Twitter: @fdncenter, @katetkacik, @gobbledyquack

While there is a long history of philanthropic funding for libraries in the United States, most public libraries rely on government funding for financial support. Local funding accounts for nearly 85 percent of public library funding, and state funding has decreased nearly 43 percent over the past decade. Foundation Center will develop a data visualization and mapping tool, along with training, for libraries to find and track funding opportunities and increase understanding of funding for both libraries and library supporters. The tool will allow users to search and see funding sources at the national, state and local levels and answer key questions about regional funding trends. Data visualizations such as maps, network connections and partnership pathways will highlight key networks of funders and recipients as well as individual grants. Foundation Center will also deliver grant-seeking training, in-person and online, to build libraries’ capacity to effectively tap new funding sources. Foundation Center will partner with the Digital Public Library of America to leverage its extensive combined national networks to disseminate this tool and training.


CONTACT: Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677, [email protected]

* Note: this release was updated June 23, 1016 to add Emory University as a partner to the ATL Maps project.