Technology TEDTalks

A library revolution, started in part by Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

Libraries are generally where you go to check out books; not where you go if you want to write one. This is an old assumption that Librii — a concept for a community-based, digitally-enhanced series of libraries in the developing world — would like to flip on its head. TED speaker Jane McGonigal has given this ambituous project a big thumbs up.

Librii is the brainchild of architect David Dewane, and aims to bring to Africa the kind of open information exchange and collaboration space that is easily found in highly-wired regions of the world. In Africa, only 3% of the population has access to broadband internet — but Librii isn’t just a place where people can go to connect to the internet and access online books and resources. Built by local workers and staffed by librarians, Librii will also focus on knowledge creation, compiling the ideas, insights and designs of the local community. It will even generate revenue for the community.

Librii was incubated with seed funding from the World Bank Institute and recently ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising more than $52,000 for its inaugural location in Accra, Ghana. So what does this have to do with video game designer Jane McGonigal?

Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better worldJane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better worldApparently, McGonigal’s 2010 TED Talk – “Gaming can make a better world” — planted the distant seed of this idea.

Dewane tells Metropolis Magazine that, after watching McGonigal’s talk, he began playing her online game EVOKE, which empowered players to solve social problems around the globe by developing real world ideas for projects that could have a big impact. About 15,000 project proposals were submitted through the game — and Dewane’s proposal for Librii was selected as one of 25 top possibilities.

McGonigal is very excited to see the idea materialize in reality.

“Librii fills me with almost a giddy anticipation for the future,” she tells Metropolis. “I can’t wait to see the creativity that flows out of Accra when young people are able to share their art and ideas with the rest of the world. Because I’ve backed the Kickstarter project, I’m a subscriber to the first connected library. I’ll get a digital copy of whatever gets created first—a book of advice or a collection of children’s stories. The library will encourage and inspire all kinds of creation.”

McGonigal is highly inspired to see her idea for a video game spin into a powerful idea that could affect the future of libraries. “It’s the power of TED,” she says.