Thursday, July 21, 2011

Library online radio

Libraries in the 21st century are now publishers, making accessible content in digital formats. As such the line between libraries, publishers and media houses have become blurred. The main distinction in my mind  is that unlike the media houses, libraries do not seek advertisers to sponsor the information that they make publicly available. Unlike both publishers and media houses, libraries are theoretically uninfluenced by those who are driven y an interest in profit making or profiteering from information shared.

It therefore stands to reason that some of the very tools that media houses and publishers use to share information can be adopted and applied by libraries (without the advertisements and profit motives of-course).On this regard, radio broadcasting is perhaps one such under-explored are for libraries as a way of sharing information and meeting the information needs of its clientele.

The question to be asked is:

    What about a library radio station?

This can be an internal radio station (accessible only in the library) or can be one globally available through the Web.

In times gone by, broadcasting equipment was expensive, but in today's world of pod-casting, anyone can broadcast information across the Web for a large and even global audience.

For Jamaica, radio is the largest mass media that reaches most persons. Stone in the nineties, suggested that  media audience for electronic media grew faster than newspaper readership. He explained that this was not surprising as ‘50% of voters experience problems reading the written word’ (Stone columns 145). Entertainment radio on the other hand had a growing radio audience (Stone columns 146). Stone also felt that word of mouth in the nineties remained a very important communication channel for Jamaicans (Stone columns 146).

Under these circumstances, it is evident that the conditions more favour library providing access to oral based information sources rather than print based sources to reach the masses. Long once declared that the need for  publishing a magazine arises when ‘people of common interest want to communicate information that they find difficult to say in spoken conversation’ (cited in Ford 1969 v). For this author, the same may be true for all print materials. Print publications arise when people find it difficult to communicate intended messages through spoken conversation.

As such there are difficulties in providing access to printed publications in Jamaica. Nationally, Jamaica has little history with the adoption of print based information sources which coincided with literacy skills at the period being nationally low. In addition, by the nineties, Jamaicans were exposed to growing electronic media including radio and television, which further competed with the need to access information in printed form.

If the premise still holds today, that in Jamaica the leading mass media is radio, then Jamaican librarians should not just be concerned about capturing and sharing our print based media, but definitely seek to capture and archive, provide access to and share our orally/aurally based media.

Today the Internet has made it possible for libraries to venture into broadcasting. Before the Internet,  one would have to purchase the same infrastructure that radio stations invest in.
For a library broadcasting programme, the library is equipped perhaps not to broadcast as a traditional radio station, but with the possibility of broadcasting digitally through the Internet, the library is able to venture into this popular Jamaican media for reaching the orally and aurally based folk of Jamaica.

I therefore propose that Caribbean libraries create broadcasting programmes to reach their audiences.

Not only should such a broadcasting programme be one controlled by the library where, the library produces the content to be aired and archived on the web, but the programme should also be interactive, in the sense that persons can call in to ask questions and broadcast their own questions, to be answered by the library experts or for the library personnel to get the experts to reply and provide the answers.

Such a programme should also involve the library allowing users to respond to other users questions and provide comments that help to create new knowledge, or capture knowledge in the heads of library users persons  or provide unique experiences/knowledge that has not yet been published  or documented.

The library could also utilise their radio station to advertise library events and services, thereby exposing the users to what the library has to offer. Further, libraries could utilise this inborn media to show case some of the audio resources that they have in their collection or provide orientation and other instruction to new library users, just like some airports, where instruction is delivered through the intercom/public announcement system.

Since Jamaica has a very strong oral tradition, in which the singer and story-teller are held in high regards (for their gift o orally and aurally sharing information), Jamaican libraries must focus then not on acquiring a largely print collection, but one that caters to the traditions of the nation.

It is not that reading is unimportant. However, if Jamaican libraries focus on a largely print based collection, then whose interest are these libraries really serving? whose culture is being transmitted and facilitated through Jamaican libraries full of print materials, when the masses are largely interested in oral information sharing?

Works Cited:

Ford, James L. Magazines for millions: The story of specialized publications. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1969.

Stone, Carl. The Stone Columns: The last year’s work: A selection of Carl Stone’s Gleaner articles, January 1992 to February 1993. Rosemarie Stone (Ed). Kingston, Jamaica: Sangster’s Book Stores, 1994.

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