What do these spaces look like?

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What do these spaces look like?

To help start the conversation and keep the focus of this discussion thread, please consider the following questions:

  • What does your space look like?  Is it a camp?  A building?  A room?  A lab? 
  • Is it in a library?  A community space?
  • What are the software sets that people have installed in their labs/comps?  How do they configure the machines that they provide?

Share your experiences, thoughts, ideas and questions by adding a comment below or replying to existing comments! Participants are encouraged to share web images of their spaces!

Peoples Housing Community Arts Program - Chicago

Hello from Chicago. Tom Tresser here. I had a great experience over three years, from 1993 to 1995 in Rogers Park, Chicago working for Peoples Housing, which developed and operated affordable housing for low and very-low income families. I organized a community arts program there that combined arts, education and micro-enterprise. I operated a sort of creative enterprise start-up operation, finding artists and other creative people who could teach and settin them up to do their work in one of our spaces. Peoples Housing was a MASTER of space creation and operation. They had recently purchased the Howard Theater, a 75-year old movie theater (unused for 15 or so years) and I was hired to bring it back to life. We also had use of raw space for arts production and meeting space in our HQ. 

I've set up a Google Folder for "Civic Spaces" and a "Peoples Housing" folder inside that, which anyone can access and edit. Inside that folder is a PDF with a narrative of the Peoples Housing organizing and programming experience.

Re-working an old building to create a space for community

TomTee wrote:

Peoples Housing was a MASTER of space creation and operation. They had recently purchased the Howard Theater, a 75-year old movie theater (unused for 15 or so years) and I was hired to bring it back to life.

Very cool space, Tom!  Thanks for sharing.  It was also great to see how you've documented your work (via the google folder link above) - full of great tactics that can be used to spark new ideas for folks.  I look forward to learning more about them as the dialogue progresses...

I found some more details about this theatre space in that document that I wanted to share with everyone (including another picture!):

Inside of the Howard TheaterThe Howard Theater consists of a 20,000 square foot single floor movie theater and several other spaces. The main auditorium is unsafe and contains water damage, decades of stored junk and debris and was even home for a while to an owl. The theater had not been used since 1977, when the last movie shown there was "Deliverance".

I decided to concentrate on putting activities into the lobby of the theater, which is 4,000 square feet. We built a small stage and got over 100 chairs donated from people in the community. Eventually, we operated programs in the lobby, which we called the Lobby Theater, a large open room over the lobby (the Upstairs Space), and in a community arts studio on the first floor of our headquarters building.

I really admire the creativity, Tom!  What a great way to re-use an old, unused building to benefit the community. 

What were the biggest challenges you faced in acquiring and making this old building into a usable space?  What were the most successful aspects of acquiring and fixing up this space?  Any surprises?

Similar projects

Hello TomTee, thanks for sharing your experience. When I read your contribution, I recall a project that I recently learned about at LabSurLab in Quito, Ecuador. The project is called "Estación Tomada" http://estaciontomada.org, which is an initiative that seeks to reclaim a train station in the city of Arequipa in Southern Peru in order to provide a space for culture, art, and participation.

Just yesterday, Jimena y Marco Valdivia told me that they were excited that the station was provided as a concession and that they have a lot of expectations to work with their community. This project is only now getting started and they can learn a lot from your experience.

Riecken Community Libraries

Our community libraries are open, welcoming spaces with areas to serve children, young people and adults.  The featured spaces in a Riecken library include a children’s corner, where children come to listen to a story hour or just to grab a book or game; in some libraries there is a teacher’s corner, where they have access to different materials including bilingual to prepare their classes; a transparency corner, where the library shows to the public how they manage their resources on a monthly basis.  The books are open to everyone for using them in the library or borrowing them to take home and also they have free access to computers and internet where available.  So in every library you can find children playing, youth reading or using the computers to do homework, check their emails or interact through social networks, and in some communities local farmers use the internet to check international coffee prices, for instance.

Transparency corner

romeo wrote:

 a transparency corner, where the library shows to the public how they manage their resources on a monthly basis.  

Such lovely libraries! It seems that you have something for everyone...I am particulalry interested in this transparency corner. Could you, please, explain how you show it to the public? Thanks!

Libraries can act as model institutions at the local level

Thank you Jelena!  These transparency corners are located in the entrances of the libraries so that anyone who visits them can see it.  The information is updated on a monthly basis and includes information about cash or in kind donations, the person who donated and what was the money used for, and the monthly contributions from the local government.  Also they show information about the total of library visitors, including age and gender, and the total of activities carried out during the month.  Some libraries also display books about corruption and access to information in these spaces.  Below there is a picture of one of these spaces.  


Practicing what you preach

I was fortunate to visit these libraries mentioned by Romeo, and I was also impressed by the transparency corner. With the project currently taking place to promote access to information, I thought that it was fitting the libraries are leading the way as an example of providing this type of information to the community. 

I am wondering if how other spaces involved in this dialogue are providing this type of information to their communities.


Romeo--I love this idea. So simple and yet so effective.

Community book project

Back at Peoples Housing we noted that a major hosptial held an annual book fair under a big tent in a shopping mall parking lot. We rented a truck and got a few volunteers to go on the last night to take the books that were not sold - we got thousands for free. We took them back to the theater and build a few wheeled carts and filled them with books. We then wheeled them outside the theater on the sidewalk and invited people to take books and also to donate them.

Community Learning Spaces


"There is no power than a community discovering what it cares about" Margaret Wheatley

Holding the meaning of this quote, I transformed my masters in data communications, networks and distributed systems into people communications, networks and connective webs.

In 2006, I took my latest 11 years of experience as a project manager and program coordinator for the development of the public sector in Lebanon using technology one step further. I moved into Integrated PROCESS DESIGN where Community comes and relates AND Technology connects, expands and spreads. The shift was from seeing technology in the center to seeing community in the center.

The question became where ? What spaces allow community to happen naturally ?

From 2007 to 2011 - our work centered around the use of public libraries as public spaces. this was done in partnership with a local NGO - Assabil 

From 2011 - nSITE, our physical place in Beirut was birthed and became the holding space for the initiative n community creativity.

What are the conditions and environment that open space for community presence and greater digital participation with intention ?

AltCity: Work..Learn..Eat..Play

AltCity is a one year old community-based space/social venture based in Beirut, Lebanon. Our main goal is to help innovative, creative, high impact, and socially-relevant media and entrepreneurial efforts do amazing things by giving them access to tools, resources, workspace, advising/mentoring, and a vibrant community of support. We aim to engage, support, and collaborate with many of the fantastic groups and people.

AltCity provides a variety of spaces (newsroom/media cafe, event space, meeting rooms, offices, co-working spaces, library, etc), supports (business supports, technical supports), and activities (workshops, presentation/demo events, film nights, competitions, collaborative work sessions, etc) to support creative, high impact, innovative, and social impact ventures in Lebanon (and beyond). 

In addition to the physical space we have been developing our three main program streams: AltMedia, AltStart, and AltDialogue

So... what do you think of AltCity? We are really looking forward to get your input and know more about your projects/initiatives. 

Julnar Doueik 

Co-founder & Media Trainer 

@altcityme | @julnardoueik | julnar@altcity.me 

Mary Brown Center Redesign

 We've been exploring design of space to foster collaboration for a few years now with some of our community partners.  Our first big step into design happened summer 2010 as part of a studio course I taught.  This resulted in the redesign of a community center in East St. Louis, Illinois, one of the more marginalized communities in the central part of the USA. Students documented their work online at:


The specifics regarding the Mary Brown Center can be accessed directly at:


Thanks so much for this very important dialogue! I look forward to learning from participants.

-- Martin

Senior Research Scientist, Center for Digital Inclusion, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign

What software sets, operating systems, programs do you recommend

Thanks, Martin, for sharing this information about the Mary Brown Center community computer lab!  It's great that the students documented their experience and knowledge with designing labs like these - this is a great resource for anyone interested in designing a community computer lab. 

It was neat to look at the before and after pictures in the post that you shared.  The before shot (embedded in this comment) has all the computers against the wall, and the after shot (pictured above) has computer stations in the middle of the room where users face each other.  Nice way to encourage collaboration and communication!

I am curious to learn what kinds of software sets, if any, the Mary Brown Center installs on their computers. Are they all Windows based machines?  It would be great to hear from others on what software sets, operating systems, and programs they have found most beneficial for their spaces.  Thanks! 

Logic models & participatory design to choose software/hardware

An interesting question, Kristin.  First, regarding operating systems, in the United States Windows still dominates.  We have worked with a number of different organizations to help set them up with Linux.  But it's been very hard to sustain those labs since there are very few members within marginalized communities who have familiarity with it.  So we primarily end up using Windows.

Regarding other software, there is much more willingness to use open source packages that run on Windows, and things like Open Office, Tux Type, and Audacity are very popular.  

But at a more general level of answer, my University of Illinois students are regularly asked to come in to help setup public computing centers.  This is most often done as part of an introduction to networked systems course that I teach to masters candidates in library and infomration science.  Because we come outside of the specific organization and in most cases the community, we use participatory design approaches to help understand what might be needed.  A new tool I began having students use this past semester is Logic Modeling.  It turned out to be a wonderful way to foster a dialogue with the community to 1) understand the existing programs organizations offer within the community; and 2) how the technology is hoped to be used to strengthen certain of their activities.  Along the way, logic models also was helpful in understanding how technology might be disruptive, which led to much deeper critical reflection with the community partners on the potential helpful and disruptive aspects of choices regarding technology.    Ultimately, then, the goal is to collaborate with our community partners to select the hardware, networking, and software that helps the PCC serve as a tool in support of the community programming impact goals. What participatory design approaches do others use to select software?

Rural libraries

Public library in Jagodina has a long tradition. It is now a modern library, coordinating and planning development and activities of all libraries in the territory of the Pomoravlje district.

The tradition of rural libraries dates back to the end of 19th century. Ever since, rural libraries had gradually lost their importance with the culmination at the beginning of 21st century, when due to economic and social crisis, rural libraries were totally neglected and marginalized together with residents of rural areas.

Surveys done by the Jagodina library in villages in the municipality of Jagodina in 2008 and 2009 showed that rural residents were ICT illiterate and that rural libraries had to take an active role in introducing changes for the sake of better social, economic and cultural status of rural residents through modernized services and refurbished rural libraries.

In 2010 with the implementation of the project AgroLib-Ja( which was awarded by EIFL), first thing to be done was refurbishing four rural libraries which were abandoned places full of dust and old books. Local government financed the refurbishment of these four rural libraries and now they are pleasant spaces, equipped with new books and agricultural magazines, computers and free Internet access.

All computers have Windows 7 operating systems installed with Microsoft Office, Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird, GIMP, Audacity, VLC player, etc.

In order to provide the best service possible to rural residents (particularly farmers, who were our target group), we organized ICT training for librarians working in these four libraries so they could work at computer and give directions to farmers when needed. Also, we organized ICT training for farmers, so they could use the Internet for searching useful information on agriculture, or visiting the website of the Ministry of Agriculture in order to find out latest incentives and subsidies.

Libraries drive civic participation and development

What makes a library innovative? What transforms a library from a repository of books into a collaborative space? How do libraries transition from simply storing knowledge to responding to community needs?

Beyond Access believes that libraries are hubs for innovative change in communities. Whether your space challenges almost every traditional notion of what a library is (a la DOK Library in The Netherlands) or it is a one-room mud hut in Sub-Saharan Africa, the value of a community and the potential for citizens to learn, engage, inform, and participate is hinged upon a space that is accessible to all. 

Reviewing this discussion thread, it is exciting to read about our colleagues' spaces. One thing is certain: No two libraries are alike. And isn't this the way it should be? Shouldn't a library adapt to the needs and expressed desires of its community?

If you're participating in this conversation, you most likely subscribe to the notion that libraries are (or at least have the potential to be) community hubs for development, engagement, and positive social change.There are over 230,000 libraries in developing and transitioning countries. 230,000 spaces for people to apply for a job online, petition for a new social program, apply for an agricultural subsidy, communicate with a family member via social media, attend a class on micro-credit, or yes, to pick up a book and read.

We know that libraries offer a space for people to improve their lives. Libraries are already active participants in development. Beyond Access is working to give libraries a platform to collaborate with the broader international development community. Libraries are partners in development.


Escuelab Space in Lima, Perú

Almost four years ago, in the historical centre of Lima, Escuelab.org settled on a 450 m2 space in the fifth and sixth floor of an empty building that had been for fifteen years closed. The historical centre of Lima is not the economical, or touristic centre of the lately "fashionable part of the city". It is a very particular -currently under recovery- commercial and political centre of a huge and complex city. Through the support of Prince Claus Fund and AECID we were able to occupy the space since 2009 for almost three years progressively implementing tables, electrical installations, network installations, electricity, and some tools. The collection of electronic hardware kept growing with donated hardware and also remainders of electronic artwork or experimental stuff and recyclable material in general. One dozen of regular desktop computers, a handfull of digital video and photo cameras, educational laptops are available to a network of "active reserachers" or "tech hackers" that use the space regularly for doing meetings, experiments, events and also for staying to live in the rooms of the 6th floor.

The space works as a mix of cultural centre, researchers residency, school, lab, office, playground, and more. ...searching for the conditions for horizontal, non-informal learning in diversity...

Hackathons, meetings, open spaces, grills in the terrace, discussions, workshops, presentations are the typical activities happening in the space.


All of the desktop PCs are running on Ubuntu 12.4, on the educational laptops mostly Sugar on Fedora and in rare cases we use light versions of the discontinued windowsXP or some MacOSX that lies in two machines beeing used by some researchers for video editing.

For live-streaming we use an ambient mike, and use an old firewire video camera through Ustream.

http://www.escuelab.org is currently evolving and the older version of the website is still available in http://oldd6.escuelab.org

Ask the community for help

Escuelab sounds so cool, Kiko!  Thanks for sharing this. It's really impressive that the community was so invested in seeing this space come alive that they donated hardware and other things to the initiative. Have others in this dialogue found effective ways of engaging the community in the building/refurbishing/improving of the space? 

And the grills on the terrace sound so fun!  Can I visit?  :)

engaging the community in refurbishing the space

Escuelab surely sounds cool !

Kristin, at nSite in Beirut we have found effective ways of engaging the community in the development of the space ~ it was an integral part of the process to engage them while the space was being refurbished ~ two events took place: 

  1. Art Fusion - which invited the community to co-create the meaning and values of the space and transform it into a visual representation that stays throughout the refurbishment process. 



2. Inhabiting nSite - which is a sensory and interactive participatory co-design process of nSite's functionality and flow. A creative exchange amongst community members of all ages and backgrounds offered by n as it becomes a collaborative learning space for collective creativity.


and now the community space is open to host co-creative conversations, circles and collaborative relational leadership gatherings. 


From our experience, belonging comes when individuals feel their ownership role, when the space becomes a place they care of and want to take care of ~ 

Collaboration between Physical Spaces and Networks ~

As I read "Physical Spaces as catalysts for greater digital participation", I can not but wonder and inquire whether they have to be hosted in the SAME place OR can they be a COLLABORATION between different places which support community each in their unique way?

To clarify my inquiry, I can see different scenarios in relation to place and digital participation:

  • the same physical place holds both community engagement and digital access
  • a physical place holds community co-creative participation and connects to collaborate with the places/organizations that hold community engagement and digital access  

In our work, we find that the collaboration between n community creativity and Social Media Exchange was a prototype of how the roles of spaces and places can start community and move it through digital participation.

n Community Creativity was holding the process of community formation through integrated and diverse social technologies that sets the context of trust-building, authentic dialogue, personal and collective responsibility, and once content was co-created collaborating with SMEX to bring the digital awareness, training and guidance. 

What are your experiences in this area?   

Right space for children

Although our primary intention was to make the rural libraries suitable for farmers and thier needs for books and information on the Internet, it turned out that our spaces were very attractive for school children. They were eager to have a space where they could meet, socialize, learn, read and play. 

They started gathering in the libraries after school ( all those children who went to school by bus had enough time after classes until the bus came) or whenever they had a free time. 


During summer breaks we organize workshops for children (English, art, literature, etc), so they can spend their free time doing something creative and innovative. Our libraries became nicer spaces with childrens' drawings on the walls, their handicrafts.

Every day, children visit the libraries. They take a book, find a quiet spot, read or write homework. We can see on their faces how much it means to them to have a space like this- They are content, relaxed and above all they enjoy being in the library.


Arab Techies gathering....

Hi all,

My name is Mohammad Azraq, and I'm the MENA Research and Online Outreach Officer for New Tactics in Human Rights. I have been reading about the interesting activities you do in you respective communities, and we are very happy you are sharing them here with us.

I want to share with you my experience in the Arab Techies gathering, which took place in Cairo, Egypt in 2008. Around 25 people from across the MENA were invited to take part in a gathering for young people interested in technology for social development and human rights. Over the course of three days, we discussed many aspects of tech development in the region; developing Arabic content on the web, I remember, was one of the main issues discussed then. How to create a slef-sustaining network of young tech enthusiasts in the region, online identity protection, and utilizing-then had become trendy- social networking for social activism were also on the table for discussion.

Here is the initiative's website to find out more information.


Camps and gatherings as spaces for learning and connecting

Thanks for sharing this, Mohammad, and reminding us that these spaces are not necessarily rooms in a building - they can also be camps and other gatherings!  The Arab Techies gathering that you attended sounds awesome.  I attending the Info Activism camp coordinated by Tactical Technology Collective (TTC).  I must say, it was an absolutely amazing experience (and that is where I met Jessica Dheere, one of the participants in this dialogue!).  TTC brought together over 100 people to learn and share the ways that they are using information and technology to make an impact in their communities.  It was an amazing peer-to-peer exchange where no one was the "expert" and we all had things to learn and give.  But more than anything, it allowed people the "space" to connect, re-energize, and get inspired.

What did it look like?  It looked like a camp!  We were just outside of Bangalore at an old retreat center.  Some of us slept in cabins and others slept in tents (it definitely brought us closer together!).  We ate our meals together, watched movies together, and attended ad-hoc training sessions.  They offered wifi and a few computers, but most of us brought our own comps.

If this sounds fun and useful, you might want to let TTC know that you're interested in attending their 2013 camp on the art of using data and design for evidence-based activism.

Are there other examples of short-term camps and gatherings out there?

Social Media Exchange, Beirut

In our four+ years in Beirut, SMEX has moved around a bit, but for the past three years, we've been in the same 4-room office in a quiet neighborhood called Badaro. (One of my favorite things about Badaro is that unlike other neighborhoods in the city, there are no political posters anywhere.) We're on the 3rd floor of a residential building that's increasingly home to other NGOs. One of the things I love about our office is that it has a room with one rounded wall, so it looks like a pie-shape. Until recently, this was our conference and meeting room and sometimes, awkwardly, we held trainings there. Recently, however, we created a dedicated training room where we can host about 10 people and a trainer at one time. 

Our space has always been informally public. That is, we host small trainings and events there, make it available to people who need meeting space when asked, our Internet is always open, and we invite other trainers to host workshops there (sometimes for a fee, and sometimes not). We have also assembled a small but deep media library, which unfortunately doesn't get used enough. And we have a range of small recording devices, for video, audio, and even GPS, that we loan out to whoever wants to borrow them, on a first-come, first-serve basis.

A lot of our training programs are long-term (six months or so) or target participants who live in rural areas, so in these cases, we organize our activities in other spaces, and we prioritize partnering with community spaces, such as the Wellspring Learning Center (which is pictured in our blogpost announcing this dialogue), local computer centers in regions around the country, or with Hala at N or at AltCity. We've also partnered with a local restaurant (also a social enterprise) to host tweetups. And when we hosted the Arab Techies Women gathering in 2010 (since you mentioned AT, Mohamad), we prioritized space as the determining factor for a successful event and worked with a local municipality, Zouk Mikael, to host the gathering in their library and on their beautiful campus, which overlooks the sea and has a theater and lots of breakout space.

Now, we're fortunate in Lebanon to have so many spaces, actually. And this, I think, has been a direct response on all our parts to the fact that renting space is very expensive and limited to generic-feeling hotels with really poor Internet access. So this limitation has actually been turned into our collective benefit.

I'm having trouble uploading images, but here's a link to a few shots of our space.


City TLDs - New Digital Spaces

This is a great effort and I hope to return from time to time to witness the progress. Today I want to mention an project that, while at first glance might seem off topic, is or will become pertinent. I refer to city TLD - like .com, .org, .us, .uk, ru, etc. - but just for use by cities.

(There are application for 30 city TLDs before ICANN, the issuing entity. (See a list in formation here.)

I've worked wiht an organization for 6 years that advocates for the development of the .nyc TLD (Top Level Domain) as a public interest resource, with domain names set aside for public services and public spaces. It is these public spaces that caused me to connect with you here.

In making our claim for digital public spaces we cite the precedent of "The Commissioners Plan of 1811" which established Manhattan's street grid. We point out that Central Park was not included in that plan, and that the retroactive creation of the park required the eviction of those who were living there.

What public spaces are being created for city TLDs globally? Are spaces being set aside for local discussions on human rights issues? Spaces for democratic discussion? Spaces that facilitate discussing and organizing around public issues? Etc.

If this seems of interest, please let me know and I'll be especially sure to return reegularly.

But the merging of public and digital spaces is also a topic of interst and for that I'll be found here again.


Tom Lowenhaupt

a "historical" perspective

Greetings. When I saw this topic, I smiled. In 1994, the Program for Community Problem Solving commissioned a paper on the then emerging "community collaboration centers," physical spaces to encourage community participation and deliberation.

I just re-scanned it . . and it seems mostly relevent . . . but we didn't exactly have social media back then!

I've uploaded the relevant docs to my box.net account for anyone who is interested.


If this link does not work . . . please email me.

best . . bill

Digital Expression Community Area (Deca)

Deca is located at the Arab Digital Expression Foundation (ADEF) premises in Moqattam, a plateau in the heart of Cairo, Egypt. It is a 176-square meter space with a 190-square meter-surrounding garden.

The vision is a space that caters to the local Moqattam youth community, as well as ADEF's 500-strong of activist artists, techies, educators, trainers and campers who have worked directly with ADEF in the past six years.


ADEF aims for the project to be intertwined with its surrounding community and responding directly to its collective thoughts and desires through the niche of digital expression. The space includes a 10-unit computer lab, an expression room for training, a community space including a digital and physical library, a sound studio, a video editing studio, a residential area and ADEF staff working space with extra space for those needing temporary office facilities. Projected activities include training, workshops, exhibitions and screenings.

The space will also function as an open studio for artists and youth to develop their work and a networking space to meet, share and stimulate the exchange of ideas and projects among youth, artists and techies. Makers' Space and Hackspace are also planned. Further activities will be developed in cooperation with the surrounding community in a studied and organic method, in keeping with ADEF’s mandate.

The creation of Deca serves a variety of functions:

  •  The space will act as a site of reinforcing ADEF’s community-building through shared activities, networking, meetings, and development of collaborative projects

  •  The space is created to cater to the individual and collective self-expression processes for the youth community of Moqattam and ADEF’s regional and local community members, by becoming a space for production and an open studio

    The space will act as a site of knowledge-production for a wider public through the organization and curating of screenings and talks conducive to self-expression

     The space will consolidate and build upon ADEF’s annual summer camps for young people across the region by developing a grass-roots and longterm program. The learning curricula and training the trainers program in particular will form a basis for this work

    The space will also be a living space where exhibitions and showcasing of finished works and works in progress will take place, through exhibitions, concerts, talks and performance.

The first phase of launching activities for Deca is September to December 2012. Our aim is to develop a model of self-governance and ownership of the youth themselves in use of the space. ADEF has been setting up the plan for this for a year now. We have completed a comprehensive community mapping research which is open and available on our wiki (in Arabic) as well as research for running the space. For the first phase and in response to both Mokattam and ADEF community ambitions, a set program will include digital activism workshop, how to set up a sound studio at home, digital video and mobile video shooting, editing, uploading and sharing of local action taking place on the streets, grafitti/stencil workshop, open mic once a month organized by one of ADEF's  partners who have been active on free expression in public spaces since the revolution. We are anticipating, and this is already happening, that the spontaneous activities born out of engagement in set program will take a life of its own organically. A team of Deca director, community facilitator and volunteers are geared up for the launch of our activities.

ADEF works only with open source hardware and software and advocates open licensing of produced knowledge, art and media. Our team has been extremely active and are early contributors to the free and open source and open knowledge movement. We're partners with Wikimedia, Creative Commons, Youtube as well as several open mapping platforms.

The challenge we anticipate is how to merge our work on the local grassroot level with our six-year long experience and network in eight different Arab countries.

Also integrated in this process of work in the space is to mobilize local businesses and individuals to be involved in support  for the sustainability. This is fairly new in Egypt and will be challenging as well.

Learning new ideas and lessons-learned from this dialogue

Thank you, Ranwa, for sharing information on your plans for Deca!  It sounds like a great initiative.  I hope that this dialogue can help to give you some ideas and lessons-learned as you begin building a community in and around this new space.  Good luck!

lessons learned

Thank you Kristin. I have to say that the entries have been extremely inspiring and so many ideas that we relate to that are enriching to our own space development.

I include here a few pictures of the activities we have started doing in Deca. http://www.flickr.com/photos/arabdigitalexpression/sets/7215763107931459...

What do these spaces look like?

I'd like to start with something my friend, David Sasaki wrote in 2009:
"Imagine a world where community libraries, located in Southern Chile to the extreme North of Siberia were laboratories of local culture instead of being only depositories of books, magazines, and newspapers. Imagine if each community was in charge of creating their own stories, to write and contextualize their own history."
I'd like to share our experience at a public library located along the rural-urban boundary in Medellín, Colombia. This library, the San Javier-La Loma branch is part of the Pilot Public Library, where for the past nine years we have been trying to address the issues raised by our users. 
During this time, we have been trying to understand what it means to provide library services in the outskirts of an urban center, in a community where inequality is very present, the absence of the State, and where the residents have been victims, as well as an active part of the violence caused by armed groups in Colombia. 
The first thing we did is to convert the library into a gathering place for conversation. It was necessary for this public institution, which is the oldest in La Loma (created prior to 1958 as a community project) to begin to raise questions and think about its users as an active part of the community. The library started to promote social and communal participation through historical memory. As a historian, we began to provide workshops in storytelling through traditions and oral sources. We started to interview community elders, built hundreds of genealogies, started to compile all of the documented heritage, where we found old press clippings, photographs, videos, texts that now make up part of the local information service. 

The most important part is that we were able to bring together the young people in the community, who started to search for their personal identities by arriving to the library to solve these critical decisions, such as whether to continue their studies or to begin working, whether to take up arms or not, whether to take drugs or not, how to live their sexuality, in short, searching for answers and real life decisions.

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