As I recently told a room full of Suffolk County librarians, if you don’t know about the Patch sites, you’d better find out. Patch may not have invaded your area yet, but I’m guessing that they will soon. And if our area is any indication, these “hyperlocal journalism” sites brought to you by AOL have the potential to become a pervasive part of our information landscape.
According to Patch.com:
Simply put, Patch is a new way to find out about, and participate in, what’s going on near you.
We’re a community-specific news and information platform dedicated to providing comprehensive and trusted local coverage for individual towns and communities.
We want to make your life better by giving you quick access to the information that’s most relevant to you. Patch makes it easy to:
- Keep up with news and events
- Look at photos and videos from around town
- Learn about local businesses
- Participate in discussions
- Submit your own announcements, photos, and reviews
And now, Patch sites have started adding a new Q&A component to their sites, aimed at answering questions of a really local nature. The idea, it looks like, is that the best way to answer questions about your community is to ask the rest of the community. And they’re probably right to a large degree. Who would know where to find the best pizza in town than other community members?
In looking at the questions that are appearing on these sites, it doesn’t take very long for some of the questions to look oddly familiar to a librarian.
So, I think at this point it’s worth asking if the local library has a place in attempting to answer these questions. Is a Patch/Library partnership something worth pursuing, not only for answering questions, but in meeting some of the goals stated on Patch.com, seeing as they do in many ways overlap or compliment the mission of most public libraries?
Many of our local libraries have done great work establishing ties to Patch as a method of publicizing library services and events. It’s great to see this, as it’s giving some well-deserved recognition to the libraries and pushing it directly to the local community.
But have anyone in a Patch-covered area tried to establish a collaborative relationship with local Patch editors? Have you thought about stepping in to answer some of the questions, both in order to serve the community and to promote the library’s services? Is it necessary for our service community to come into our space (as in our building, our Web site, our text reference service, etc) to get their information needs met by a professional librarian? Is this another avenue for community outreach?