How might we leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgeable communities?

This is the question, focused on libraries and community engagement, that prompted the Knight News Challenge in 2014.

The challenge is hosted by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (@knightfdn). The Foundation is a non-profit organization whose mission is to support community-transforming causes that “promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts…believ[ing] that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged.”  

A total of 680 submissions from all over the United States were analyzed by 11 panel members. Trending themes among the projects ranged from maker spaces to open data movements.

In the fall, 41 semi-finalists were chosen to move on. Only a few winners will be chosen to receive funding at the end of the contest, but all are worthy endeavors. Judges will have to take into account the community the project will serve, how far the funding will go in the project, and how much of an impact the project will have on the community–just to name a few possible angles of analysis.

In order to present the contenders in the easiest way for you to browse, here are the 41 semi-finalists, categorized by the general themes as defined by the Knight Foundation and organized below. (Source:

Winners will be announced January 22.

The original challenge can be viewed here.

The maker movement: 

Libraries are looking to create spaces and programs that enable invention and hands-on education.

Free Music Tech Labs for Teens in Public Libraries

Intercity Public Square

Make It @ Your Library, Phase 2: Sharing DIY, Tech, and Maker Tools with Libraries through Circulating Kits

Digital indie games licensing for libraries

Book a Nook: Activating library workspaces through an open AP

A Network of Makerspaces in Libraries: An Opportunity to Transform Libraries into Centers of Creativity and Innovation through Making

Libraries as Hip-Hop Techspace

Building Libraries Together: new tools for communities to help build digital libraries of the future

Library as Civic Storefront for New Businesses

Upgrade Libraries’ eBook Catalogs into a Publishing Platform for Indie Authors

Media Mentors: Creating an Academy at Kent State University’s School of Library and Information Science

Mini MakerSpaces for small libraries to empower citizens to use technology to solve problems and share local expertise. This will transform libraries into creative support networks for developing technical skills and sharing resources.

Make Your Space: the Maker Generation of San Jose Teens designs, fabricates, and installs a central creation and collaboration hub, building the physical and theoretical foundation for the next wave to remix and make new ideas in.


Information literacy:

From digital and data literacy, to timely training on privacy concerns, libraries can guide communities through the complex information ecosystems that shape our economy and culture.


Activating the public library as a physical infrastructure for online learning

The Community Resource Lab: Libraries Linking People to Vital Social Services

Privacy Literacy: It’s No Secret. Fostering Unlimited Access and Participation in the Digital World

Promoting Data Literacy & Inspiring Social Action in Libraries

Media and journalism:

From media creation spaces to archives of news and media to new models for local journalism, the library and journalism fields are inherently linked through their shared values of upholding the truth and providing information.


This Place Matters: Using Mobile Technology to Leverage the Resources of Libraries and Share the Stories of African Americans in Central Appalachia

Archyve: A digital history crowd-sourcing app

To stop the current long-term loss of history and cultural heritage, the Journalism Digital News Archive (JDNA) proposes a pilot project to develop a replicable model for preserving and establishing sustainable access of born-digital news content.

News You Can Use: Online and Tactile Learning with Primary Sources

Local history:

Libraries are dedicated to the preservation of local knowledge; they are increasingly investigating ways to use new technology to capture and present rich information rooted in time and place.


NYC Space/Time Directory: Libraries and Communities Working Together to Build Open Historical Data and Tools for Urban Time Travel

Curatescape: Transforming Place through Digital Storytelling

Culture In Transit: Digitizing and Democratizing Metropolitan New York’s Cultural Heritage.


Open data:

Many libraries are exploring their role in the open government movement as potential repositories of data and resources for civic technologists.


From open data to open knowledge: Using libraries to turn civic data into a valuable resource for citizens, researchers, and City Hall alike.

From open data to open knowledge: Using libraries to turn civic data into a valuable resource for citizens, researchers, and City Hall alike.

OpenArchive: Uniting Libraries and Archives to Empower Engaged Citizens

Harness True Fans to Open Library and Archival Collections

Make the Things that Measure the Future: Libraries & Open Hardware

Library without walls:

From techno trucks to book bikes, library professionals are ready to put their resources on wheels and take them wherever they are needed.


The Library Freedom Project: Bringing Privacy Education and Digital Tools to Local Communities Through Libraries

Library-led 50 state field test of TV White Spaces (TVWS) potential to enable 100,000 new distributed library Wi-Fi access points.

3D Printed Children’s Books for Blind Children

Library For All: A digital library for the developing world.

Libraries as Crisis Responders

Library Technobus: A Computer Lab on Wheels

BklynShare: Check out an Expert & Borrow a Skill! A new approach to knowledge sharing


Professional transformation:

Library professionals have a deep pride in their profession and are seeking research and education opportunities to respond to change.


Reward your worst customers: the push to create repeat non-offenders

Library Space Camp

The 4th Floor Accelerator

GITenberg: Modern Maintenance Infrastructure for Our Literary Heritage

Building Libraries of Human Experience — Transforming America’s Libraries into Community Storytelling Centers for the Digital Age

StoryCorps Library Communities: Use StoryCorps’ nationally recognized content and techniques to help libraries build empathy, engage with, create knowledge about, and celebrate the rich diversity of our nation’s communities and neighborhoods.

The Librarian of the Future


Who would you like to see win? Show your support for your favorite projects here or by clicking the links to the individual projects above.