Chapter 5: Building bridges: developing the International Newsroom – Diversity Programming and Outreach for Academic Libraries

5

Building bridges: developing the International Newsroom

Abstract:

This chapter discusses the planning and development of the International Newsroom at IUPUI University Library, how the project has evolved since its launch, and offers advice to other libraries that would like to develop similar projects.

Key words

diversity

multiculturalism

universities

academic libraries

outreach

international television

international news

Indiana University’s call for diversity initiatives

In keeping with the great work done by the Diversity Scholars and their supervisors in creating programs and displays and developing partnerships with libraries and communities both in the United States and internationally, the Diversity Council was searching for additional opportunities to provide IUPUI students with an initiative that would increase awareness of diversity issues. In September 2008, Indiana University President Michael McRobbie announced the President’s University Diversity Initiative, a $1 million program to ‘fund meritorious proposals that support the continued enhancements in the development of the racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity of all IU campuses as well as to enrich the equity of access for IU students from underrepresented communities’ [http://diversity.iupui.edu/univ_initiative.html]. This initiative was designed to provide $100,000 over three years to selected projects.

University Library’s Diversity Council decided to submit a proposal for an International Newsroom, which would provide international television news broadcasts for our students, and also provide newspapers and magazines from representative countries. One of our Council members had read about a similar project developed in the James Branch Cabell Library at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). [It should be noted that as of March 9, 2009, this newsroom was closed due to declining use and budgetary issues. Diversity Scholars Alise and Sindhu suggested that the broadcasts be provided in foreign languages to give our international students ‘news from home’ in their native languages.

University Library’s proposal

The greatest challenge we faced in planning the International Newsroom was the short deadline given for submitting proposals (which seems to be an all too common issue at universities). Although the Initiative was announced in mid-September, the deadline for ‘pre-proposals’ was October 7, 2008. This meant we needed to do our research quickly and work as team to flesh out our plan. The Council took the advice of our Diversity Scholars to offer news in the languages of our international students, which necessitated looking closely at student enrollment data provided by IUPUI’s Admissions Office. We learned IUPUI has large populations of students from China, India, Saudi Arabia,

Taiwan, Canada, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria and Japan. We also have large numbers of African American, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Hispanic/Latino students, and a few Native American students. Additionally, we wished to provide our international students with copies of newspapers in their native languages. We decided that the languages we would focus on would be Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, Hindi and at least one African dialect.

Although the pre-proposal was a bit sketchy, the Diversity Council was invited to tender a full proposal, which needed to be submitted within two weeks. Since we had already decided upon the types of resources we wished to provide and in which languages, the next step was to quickly determine the availability and cost of such resources. Diversity Scholar Sindhu was very knowledgeable about various television outlets for international news and provided a number of possibilities for consideration. Council member Jennifer researched the availability and pricing of international newspapers using our subscription database, Ulrich ‘s International Periodical Directory. University Library had gradually discontinued international newspaper subscriptions over several years, mostly due to the expense and delay in receiving overseas delivery; we thought this an excellent time to see if there had been improvements in delivery mechanisms and if there would be renewed interest among our growing international student population. With news outlets in mind, we set about finding the best provider.

There were several factors to consider when selecting a provider, including cost, hardware, contracts, and programming. During our research, we located SCOLA, a non-profit organization that ‘retransmits educational television programming from around the world via satellite, cable, and the Internet’ (http://www.scola.org). We quickly contacted SCOLA to obtain a price quote to include in our proposal; the necessary hardware and access would be costly but they did provide programming for the languages and regions in which we were interested.

We consulted our in-house technical support team for help selecting and pricing flat screen televisions and computer workstations that would be available to users to access a portal to a variety of online news sources that we would pay a webmaster to set up and maintain. Additionally, we worked with the library’s administration office to find appropriate vendor catalogs to price comfortable furniture for the space.

One important detail was to determine where in the library the International Newsroom would be located. Our microforms collection, very much underused and outdated, took up a large portion of the high-traffic second floor reference area. The Dean of the Library approved the potential move of the microforms collection out of this ‘prime real estate’ and into an area that was still accessible to both library staff and patrons. This also gave librarians an impetus to weed the microforms collection, as the new microforms area would not accommodate the existing collection in its entirety. The expense of weeding and moving was included in the Council’s proposal.

Admittedly, we had underestimated the costs of newspaper subscriptions and satellite or cable television service in our preliminary proposal, so we sought to correct this in the final proposal. Once the pricing for the relocation of the microform collection, the computers and televisions, the furniture, the necessary hardware for the satellite connection, and the annual subscriptions to newspapers and satellite feeds was determined, the full proposal was submitted just prior to the deadline. The Council’s full proposal may be found in Appendix D.

A second chance at the project

On November 3, 2008, the Council received an e-mail that stated ‘although your project shows potential, it was not recommended to the chancellor to be submitted to the Indiana University Office of Equity, Diversity, and Multicultural Affairs for the President’s University Diversity Initiative’. The response was disappointing, but fortunately all our hard work was not in vain. The Dean continued to support the project and gave it over to the library’s Director of Development to continue searching for possible funding sources, including corporate sponsorship (the microforms area was originally sponsored by National City Bank when the current library was constructed in 1992). While the Diversity Council would no longer have direct responsibility for the International Newsroom, our initial planning and vision would help shape its development. In March 2009, we received word that the library was awarded a grant through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) (http://www.lsta.org/) for $8,000 to be used to purchase six flat screen televisions. Additionally, we received a $20,000 grant from the IUPUI Learning Environments Committee for furniture that would be selected by the University Architect’s Office. The LSTA grant is a federal ‘pass-through grant’, meaning the funds were given to the Indiana State Library and then distributed to IUPUI University Library.

Since these two new grants were substantially less than the budget for our original proposal to the University Diversity Initiative, we needed to adjust and prioritize our plan for the International Newsroom and proceed in phases. The initial phase would include seating and televisions with international news programming. The newspapers, computers and portal that we envisioned would have to be put on hold until additional sources of funding could be located. We also began to question the wisdom of including print newspapers and other publications in this area. Our sense is that fewer and fewer people, particularly technology-savvy students, read print publications, instead preferring to acquire current news instantly by television or through Internet sources.

While SCOLA provided attractive programming, the costs of hardware and broadcast access were prohibitively high. Our in-house technical support team researched other possible sources for our needed programming and decided that Dish® Network would be the most practical for our needs. While the pricing was similar to other providers, Dish® was found to have a better selection of international news channels for the areas that we wanted, although they did not provide coverage from Africa. We eventually selected news packages that included the Middle East, India, China, Korea, Europe and Latin America in their native languages. Our European selection, EuroNews, provided coverage in English.

Construction and furnishing of the International Newsroom

From March through September 2009, many people worked on making the International Newsroom a reality. First, the space needed to be cleared. The microform collection needed to be weeded and moved to a new location. Extra cabinets needed to be sent to surplus or donated to other area libraries. This author is proud to note that no microfilm or fiche found its way into local landfills. It was all donated to various schools and organizations to be used in art projects. Once the area was clear and cleaned, televisions had to be mounted to the walls, furniture selected, ordered and delivered, and wiring needed to be installed and a mechanism for listening to the news determined.

In initial planning, Dean Lewis advised the Council that he preferred the International Newsroom would have a welcoming, relaxing atmosphere, but would not be a ‘clubhouse’ that would disrupt activities at the reference desk, only a few yards away. To prevent this, our technical support team wired the televisions so that the audio would play on transmitters attached to large immovable tables in the International Newsroom. Students could plug in their headphones or tune into the frequencies on their own FM radios or those that we had available at the circulation desk to promote the project. The library sells the small radios with ear buds for $2.50, having obtained them on clearance for a few pennies less per radio. Signage indicated to students which television was connected to which transmitter or which frequency was required for radio reception.

Figure 5.1 Microform area designated for conversion to International Newsroom

Figure 5.2 International Newsroom in process

Figure 5.3 International Newsroom in process

Figure 5.4 Current configuration of International Newsroom

Changes to the International Newsroom

The International Newsroom opened to the public on September 1, 2009, taking less than a year to realize, but our greatest challenges lay ahead. Although we publicized the Newsroom through various venues, including student orientation activities inside and outside the library, we observed very few students watching the programming in the International Newsroom, even after several weeks of classes.

We did know of one avid fan, a student who rather apologetically informed Mindy Cooper that our news feed from India was not broadcast in Hindi (as we had advertised) but another dialect entirely. Mindy thanked him, and with assistance from our technical support expeditiously located an alternate news broadcast and verified that it indeed was in Hindi.

Faculty members had not brought their classes into the area and the School of Journalism was disinterested in our end product. By December 2009, the Council was discussing making changes. We realized that in our quest to be inclusive of our international students, we may actually have been too exclusive of our other patrons. Having news coverage in Hindi, Arabic, Spanish, Korean and Mandarin appeared to have a negative effect on the number of people who would actually be able to understand the access we were providing. One major setback, according to a faculty member from the IU School of Journalism, was the lack of closed captioning in English for those who did not speak the language. We looked into this issue and determined that closed captioning, a requirement by the US Federal Communications Commission, was not universal and the few channels that provided captioning provided it in the native language, not English. So by February 2010, we had found alternative channels to provide news from the Middle East, India, China and Korea and in English. Only EuroNews and CNN en Español were retained from the original programming lineup.

Table 5.1

Original program channels and updated English language channels

Region/Language Native Language Channel English Language Channel
Middle East Al Jazeera LinkTV
India Telegu Headlines Today
China CCTV4 CCTV-9
Korea WOW-TV KBS World
Europe EuroNews EuroNews
Spanish CNN en Espanol CNN en Espanol

With this change in programming, we also had to expand our definition of ‘news’. While the channels we had originally selected were entirely centered on serious news broadcasts, some of the new channels provided popular culture programs interspersed throughout their daily broadcast, which we hoped would actually attract more of our students as they pursue study abroad and other opportunities at IUPUI.

We recently provided access to coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but had disappointing attendance, due to factors beyond our control: maintenance in other areas of the library that resulted in construction noise and loss of air conditioning systems, plus competition from our IUPUI Campus Center which also broadcast the World Cup events. Students may also have felt uncomfortable expressing unrestrained enthusiasm for the games and feared being ‘shushed’ by overzealous library staff. We still hope to provide some special programming and events that will draw viewers to the space outside their normal activities and that we can eventually foster some sense of community through the Newsroom.

Future of the International Newsroom

As the recent changes illustrate, the International Newsroom is continually evolving. We will make adjustments to the programming as necessary, either as channels are added or dropped from packages, or by patron feedback. Assessment will be a very important ongoing part of our project. We have begun plans for evaluating student use of the International Newsroom by employing existing library security cameras in that area to unobtrusively observe patron use of the space and determine whether our efforts to alter programming, reconfigure seating, and improve marketing efforts result in increased patronage. We are planning surveys that we hope will shed light on our students’ opinions of the space and their ideas for programming and future special events (see Chapter 7). We believe that student surveys and the use of the area by faculty and their classes will help the Diversity Council develop an International Newsroom that will provide needed and wanted coverage of news and events to the entire IUPUI community.