Start Submission Become a Reviewer

Reading: World Librarians: A Peer-to-Peer Commons for Closing the Global Digital Divide


A- A+
Alt. Display

Practice Article

World Librarians: A Peer-to-Peer Commons for Closing the Global Digital Divide


Charlie Schweik ,

University of Massachusetts Amherst, US
About Charlie
My research focus is on public sector information technology, environmental management and policy, and the intersection of these domains. More specifically, I am a social scientist working to understand Internet-based collective action and online commons-based peer production. Over the last decade, my research has focused largely on the study of open-source software communities, and the socio-technical systems and governance structures that support these systems of co-production. My book — now freely available in pdf form!!! — final_book_cover Internet Success: A Study of Open Source Software Commons (MIT Press, 2012; click link to download) analyzed more than 170,000 such projects, in an effort to explain what leads some to ongoing collaborative success and many others to early abandonment. With this grounding in open source collaboration complete, my current list of projects (below) are expanding into other online peer-production settings that, in some way mimic or borrow collaborative principles from open source software.
X close

Jeremy Smith,

University of Massachusetts Amherst, US
About Jeremy
Jeremy Smith is the Digital Projects Manager at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He manages the Open Education program there.
X close

Carl Meyer

Shift IT, MW
X close


INTRODUCTION An estimated 53% of the world’s population do not have Internet access. As a consequence, they lack information capital that could be key to bettering their lives. In this practice article, we introduce a sociotechnical system called “World Librarians.” This system, facilitated by a knowledge commons, provides educators, librarians, students, and medical professionals in remote Internet-poor areas of Malawi with access to digital content that they request. OBJECTIVE We describe the social and technical methods by which a team of educators, librarians, students, and information technology specialists in information-privileged environments share educational content to information-disadvantaged communities. METHODS After briefly discussing key foundational components and partnerships, we explain the mechanics of the sociotechnical system. We follow this with two proof-of-concept cases where offline requesters in remote school and library contexts in rural Malawi are assisted by an online librarian searcher team at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. RESULTS The proof of concept cases demonstrate that the relatively low-cost sociotechnical system accomplishes the goal of sharing open access educational content in remote areas with limited or no access to networked information. Moreover, the cases demonstrate that the content shared can be content global southerners offline want and need, rather than information global northerners think they should have. CONCLUSIONS The World Librarians system is ready to be scaled and replicated at other institutions with ready access to high-speed networked information. The authors welcome contact from readers who might be interested in establishing their library as a new “searcher node” in the growing World Librarians network.
How to Cite: Schweik, C., Smith, J. and Meyer, C., 2018. World Librarians: A Peer-to-Peer Commons for Closing the Global Digital Divide. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication, 6(2), p.eP2249. DOI:
Published on 31 Aug 2018.
Peer Reviewed


  • PDF (EN)

    comments powered by Disqus