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Columbus Neighborhoods: A Community Engagement Portal

Columbus Metropolitan Library
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Innovation Leader: Penny Phensuvabharp, IT Administrator, PPhensuvabharp@columbuslibrary.org

Problem Statement

In 2008, the Office of the Mayor of Columbus, Ohio, put out a challenge to companies in Columbus to plan and support the upcoming celebration of Columbus’ history, communities, and economic future during the bicentennial year in 2012. Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML) partnered with local PBS affiliate, WOSU Public Media (WOSU) to respond to this challenge and launch www.columbusneighborhoods.org.

Innovation

In early 2010, CML and WOSU worked together to design, implement, and launch the Columbus Neighborhoods website. Community members can explore, contribute, and co-curate galleries of photos and stories celebrating Columbus’ cultural history. In parallel, WOSU will broadcast six film documentaries, each about a significant neighborhood, with the final airing to broadcast during the bicentennial month (February 2012). These films directly promote the Columbus Neighborhoods website. In addition, WOSU populates the database with video and film segments, so users can enjoy the rich media content.

People, residents, organizations, and companies build the community archives, share photos of change that has occurred in Columbus, and contribute histories. The user content focuses on both historical and contemporary snapshots. Any website user can select content and associate it into a set or gallery that is featured as a slideshow. People can co-curate galleries, and use an embed code feature to integrate these gallery slideshows into their own social media spaces, blogs, and personal homepages. The website is even referenced in the Wikipedia entry for Columbus, Ohio.

The shared vision of CML and WOSU was to put infrastructure in place early and serve as a solid platform for Columbus’ bicentennial in 2012. The website is developed in a Drupal web platform, and maintained within CML’s technology department by staff. Beyond 2012, the website will continue to be a repository of growing contributions and evolve as a future online centerpiece for Columbus.

Progress

The website launched March 2010 and we are ready for the planning of the City's celebration. Numerous users have expressed their appreciation for the valuable reference that is provided by our librarians responding to the contact feature. Others offer to forge new partnerships or share their unique special collections.

Our vision of long term sustainability has been acknowledged by Columbus leaders. In January 2011, Columbus city planners and Experience Columbus (Columbus’ convention and visitors bureau) approached the library and WOSU about integrating the official website for the Columbus bicentennial with the Columbus Neighborhoods website. We are pleased that our library has demonstrated to our community leaders one example of a non-traditional library service that is very unique and special to our community.