Even before the pandemic closed our buildings, necessitated social distancing, and gave sudden prominence to our online offerings and services, many libraries had already ventured into less familiar digital territories to explore new ways to connect with and build their communities. They did so to reach the underserved, those in the community who were either unable or disinclined to physically visit the library building and engage with the services there.
Take teens, for example. Two popular online platforms that teenagers frequent are Discord and Twitch. Some libraries, trying to meet this age group where they are, have pioneered the use of these services before and during the current crisis. Now, more than ever, such virtual online spaces are worth boldly engaging with to conduct library programming and outreach.
Allow me to dig out my trusty highlighter, and let’s begin…
Today’s highlights: Discord and Twitch
What is Discord?
It’s a digital community gathering space, an app described as “Slack for gamers”. Picture a customizable chat channel with the integration of text, images, audio, and video.
Discord was created by gamers for that specific community: a shared space online to socialize, chat, share content, discuss strategy, and keep up with their games remotely and asynchronously.
Despite its gamer origins, Discord has many versitile applications including education and business. Any organization can use it to conduct outreach, communication, and facilitate community building.
So it’s a perfect fit for libraries!
How are libraries using Discord?
Here are a few ways the platform is being used in libraries today:
- Book clubs
- Dungeons & Dragons games
- Genealogy workshops
- Internal staff communication
- Professional discussions
What is Twitch?
Twitch is the world’s most popular social live streaming site. Like Discord, it came out of the world of gamers. Besides being where most eSports competitions are broadcast, Twitch is the place to watch game-based talk shows or individual streamers playing their favorite video games while giving their own self-commentary. Participants watching the live stream can interact with the streamer directly or access the archived recordings on-demand. Unlike YouTube, where watching videos is usually free, and content creators are paid solely via advertising revenue, Twitch employs a subscription service and popular streamers receive payment from their subscribers.
Twitch isn’t just for games. There are a number of creative artists on Twitch – anything from sculptors to musicians – streaming the live creation of their work for an audience willing to give them immediate (and I mean immediate) feedback.
How are libraries using Twitch?
Digital literacy: To stream one’s one content, Twitch can be particularly complex to set up and use effectively with regard to its hefty hardware, software, and network requirements. This makes it a fantastic tool to introduce teens to crucial (and lucrative) digital literacy skills. Considering the growing rise in the number of female gamers, there’s an opportunity here to engage teen girls with the platform and encourage them to develop skills in this area and potentially pursue STEAM careers.
Despite its popularity with teens, over half of Twitch’s users are between 18-34 so libraries may want to consider using it to provide adult services as well.
Here are some ideas for how libraries could use Twitch:
- Support an eSports program
- Stream programs, workshops, and presentations for homebound patrons or ones outside of geographical area
- Engage guest speakers for programming without requiring travel.and including special interactive component
- Teach resume classes
- Play bad movies and host a community heckle
If you’d like to learn more about these two popular platforms, I highly recommend this introductory presentation for last year’s Library 2.0 conference by Michael Dunbar-Rodney and Lorin Flores from San Antonio Public Library. Besides giving a great overview, it covers many of the emerging best practices for those libraries wishing to use Discord and Twitch themselves.
> Presentation recording (MP4, 30 mins): Twitch & Discord in Public Libraries: New Opportunities for Adult Services
Has your library done anything with Twitch or Discord, especially during the pandemic? Let me know. I’d love to hear about it.
A big thanks to LDN Office Assistant Tomas Mendez for his help developing the content for this month’s highlight!