CILIP Conference – Libraries Without Borders’ Ideas Box

In July CIG sponsored two delegates to attend the CILIP Conference in Liverpool – Amy Staniforth and Emma Day-Stirrat. As a condition of this sponsorship the delegates were asked to produce reports on their experiences and we would like to share these with our members. Amy’s report on her experience is included in the September issue of Catalogue and Index  and Emma’s report can be found below.

Huge thanks to both our bursary winners for sharing their experiences!

CILIP Conference 2015, 2-3 July, Liverpool

Libraries Without Borders’ Ideas Box

I had the opportunity to attend this year’s CILIP conference thanks to a bursary place from CIG. There was a huge range of inspiring speakers and fringe events. One keynote speech was given by Barbara Schack, Director of Development at Bibliothèques Sans Frontières/Libraries Without Borders (LWB) on the Ideas Box. Delegates had the chance to explore the Ideas Box was in the exhibition hall throughout the conference.

Schack described how there are over 50 million displaced people worldwide who spend an average of 17 years in refugee camps. Once their immediate requirements of food, shelter, clothing and medical care have been met they need tools to rebuild themselves and their communities – which are often lacking. A response to this came from LWB in partnership with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and designer Philippe Starck, the Ideas Box: a portable multi-media toolkit. Providing access to information, culture and education for refugee and vulnerable populations worldwide, both in developed countries and in underserved areas.

The Ideas Box at a glance:

  • A satellite internet connection, 15 tablets and 4 laptops
  • A library with 250 printed books, thousands of e-books and 50 e-readers
  • MOOC and stand-alone internet educational digital contents such as Khan Academy, Wikipedia, mapping software, etc.
  • A cinema with a rich film collection
  • 5 HD cameras for film-making and journalism
  • Board games and computer games
  • Arts and craft materials, puppets and a theatre workshop

This large range of resources and customised information allows audiences to create, learn, connect and play. Since February 2014 Ideas Boxes have been deployed in the African Great Lakes region, Syria, Paris, and the Bronx New York.

LWB were asked “What is the role of librarians in the Ideas Box?” Their answer “content curation”: providing high quality and relevant resources to the populations where it is deployed. This is probably especially true when the Ideas Box is deployed in deprived urban areas where there are already librarians working as opposed to refugee camps. In humanitarian crisis, content curation may need much great involvement of aid workers and local people so that the content reflects the needs of the people using it.

LWB’s has ambitious aims of commissioning 100 Ideas Boxes over the next 2 years – not an easy feet when each one cost around $60,000 and comes through fundraising. However, this hugely versatile multi-media toolkit has demonstrated it has the potential to reach a wide range of audiences. Within the UK health libraries sector in which I work, it would be interesting to get the reactions of public and community health practitioners to see whether if could support the work they do.

More detailed information along with photos and a video of the Ideas Box in use can be found here.

Emma Day-Stirrat, Library and Archive Services, Royal College of Nursing




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