4 ways you should use Meetup

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Meetup is a free online resource that allows people to publicise self-organised groups of any kind. You can find it at http://www.Meetup.com

There are lots of reasons that cultural organisations should be interested in Meetup – all kinds of people self-organise to meet and share interests, business ideas and to showcase new things. You can find out a lot about hidden communities in your local area by taking a look on Meetup.

I mainly use Meetup to find out about developer groups that are meeting all over London – particularly those who are interested in wearable tech (e.g. Google Glass, Oculus Rift), augmented reality (Star Wars Holodeck anyone?) and smart technologies (think fridges talking to your local supermarket when you’re out of milk).

Companies often showcase their new ideas to Meetup groups, host meetings and set developer challenges so it’s a great way to find out what might be round the corner. It’s also a wonderful way to make links with developer communities who are often more interested than you’d think in volunteering and partnering with libraries and cultural institutions.

But there are also meetup groups for knitters, DIYers, cooks, beer enthusiasts… you name it there’s a meetup group for it. A friend uses a meetup boot camp in a local park to get fit for free.

So here are 4 ways cultural organisations should use meetup:

1. Join some groups, meet some people, make contacts

2. Contact some groups, offer your space for meet ups

3. Start some meet up groups of your own

4. Help the public join and start their own groups

I have found that the time it takes to get involved in Meetup groups is really worth it – both in terms of the new ideas you find out about and in terms of the quality of contacts you can make.

One really easy way for libraries and cultural organisations to become part of the developer/maker movements in towns and cities around the country is to offer to host meetup groups who are often looking for a home. You can also use it as a really good online portal to publicise your own groups and boost attendance. Even if you decide not to do any of these things, you should be able to tell the public about meetup (and other similar online resources) so that they can join in and start their own groups if they want to. You’ll find that you’re the hub of hundreds of vibrant online/real world communities before you know it.

 

Digital is the new black

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(Image: Colossus, Bletchley Park by Adam Lederer)

This blog is about the importance of digital work in libraries and other cultural institutions. And hopefully some helpful ideas about how to do it.

Of course everyone agrees that libraries, museums, archives etc all need to engage in digital activities – digital is the new black.

Well actually it’s more like the new electricity, or gas, or oxygen.

But the catchall of ‘digital’  – digital marketing activities (don’t get me started on that particular digital prefix), online databases, new library or content management systems, teaching people how to use a mouse or access an online catalogue, digital artworks and creative activities, providing access to the internet or wifi – well it all just feels kind of messy. A bit like the picture up there. Loads of work, loads of activity, loads of energy – but for what?

I  believe that the fundamental duty of public cultural institutions, and particularly public libraries, is to make sure that everyone – or as many people as possible – are included in our cultural spaces and in society. And this is what the focus of any digital activities should be. Simple no? (I never promised to blow your mind – refer to my blog title!)

But inclusion in the digital age doesn’t just mean signposting things, making the internet available, showing someone how to consume the technology that’s out there. It means providing the space and encouragement for them to make the stuff. Allowing them into your archives, picture libraries and catalogues and letting them see what they can make of them. Fostering a digital maker culture in the same way you would encourage knitting groups, writing groups, sketching groups and family history enthusiasts to be creative with your things and in your spaces.

I like the picture up there because it’s messy and looks difficult to understand, so it’s a metaphor for how you can sometimes feel about digital activities in cultural services. I also like it because it’s beautiful and full of creative possibility, which is the kind of feeling we should all have about the digital activities fostered by public cultural institutions. And I like it because it’s messy and homespun, like a beginner’s woolly jumper, which is the kind of digital product we should all feel comfortable with as we start to include people in this brave new world.