Public Libraries as Open Data Labs: the Atheneums of Data in the Barcelona pilot

What if public libraries went beyond their current mission as centers of (mostly) paper-based knowledge consumption, and became centers of digital knowledge creation and community-centric data innovation?

Following this vision, the Barcelona pilot is deploying the Open4Citizens idea of the ‘Open Data Labs’ as a network of Citizen Innovation Laboratories located within the premises of four public libraries in the Greater Barcelona area (https://www.diba.cat/es/web/biblioteques/bibliolab/projectes-d-innovacio-participativa). This implementation will adapt, implement and evaluate the deployment of the O4C open innovation methodology based on open data from the Open Data Labs, to generate an Athenaeum of Data model that opens up to the open innovation paradigm the services currently offered by the Library Network of the Barcelona Provincial Council (Diputació de Barcelona), and complement its current service offering of training and capacity-building activities with an environment that empowers the citizen to make effective use of open digital assets (data, software and hardware) to generate innovations that are valuable for the community.

In the paradigm of the Atheneum of Data, digital data is conceived as a common good, a resource that should be accessible in an effective way for all members of society. Not like a new oil to exploit unequally, but as a new soil or new ground to manage in a sustainable way for the common good. This approach makes strong synergies with public libraries, well established and socially well regarded institutions which are currently in a process of adapting their mission to the new realities of the digital society in the framework of the Bibliolabs (‘library laboratories’) programme (https://www.diba.cat/en/web/biblioteques/bibliolab1).

In the first phase of implementation (May 2018 — February 2019), it will carry out four pilot tests in four selected municipalities in the Greater Barcelona area (Manlleu, L’Hospitalet, Sant Adrià del Besòs and Mataró) where there are libraries of the network, to train users and library professionals in competences, processes and innovation skills in open data, as well as identifying the possibilities and opportunities awarded by the digital commons. It will also explore the conditions, requirements and opportunities to upscale the model, to generate a network of Athenaeums of Data within the set of 225 libraries of the network of the Barcelona Provincial Council.

The activities in this first phase will begin with a basic training process on open data based digital social innovation, which will be attended by library professionals and citizen users. These capacity-building actions will provide the foundation for four community-led innovation processes centred on the four local pilot libraries which will produce a product or service based on open data, with social and community value, and that addresses a problem or challenge of the area served by the library. Possible examples of results, merely informative, could be: a virtual exhibition that explains the stories of the reprisals by the Franco regime of the municipality based on the existing open data on the subject; a simple application that geolocates on a map of the area the elements of local cultural heritage that are of interest to visitors; an open calendar that includes the set of cultural activities programmed around the library; a repository of data created by community contributions that includes the elements of intangible cultural heritage (the characteristic patterns of local artisans, dances and dresses of local festivals); and a long etcetera still to be continually co-created with the citizens!