At Penguin we know that stories can flourish and grow outside of the book, across a multitude of new formats and technologies. To give creatives the opportunity to tell Stephen Fry‘s story outside of the written word we’ve been hanging out with Stephen in libraries, universities, tech hubs and with creatives and readers, as part of the YourFry project. Get a behind the scenes look from the YourFry team, and find out how to submit your own creation.
YourFry is a collaborative storytelling project that asks the public to interpret sections from Stephen Fry’s last two memoirs, in any format and through any medium including apps, websites, animation, video, performance, music and more. The project has given people from across the globe the chance to collaborate on ideas of how the book format might exist in the future, how we can use data to tell stories and what it means to tell our own narratives through digital.
As the future of the book evolves, so does the role that libraries play in our lives. Libraries are vital community hubs, centres of learning, places where information and knowledge is exchanged freely across age groups, backgrounds and industries – and they’re finding the most creative new ways to do this. Across the world libraries are engaging with new tech by holding hackathons, maker spaces, digital hubs, online archives and much more.
Two YourFry hackathons were held; at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and the Toronto Public Library in Canada, where developers, filmmakers, students, musicians, artists and more came together to create their own projects.
We talked to Liz McCarthy, Communications and Social Media Officer at the Bodleian Library and asked how the hackathon went down, and what she thinks the future holds for libraries.
Why did the Bodleian decide to collaborate on an event for YourFry?
Hosting a YourFry event gave us a chance to think about new ways for people to use and to engage with the Bodleian Libraries’ collections vis-à-vis Stephen Fry memoirs. It was also a great opportunity to get different groups of people – researchers, students, staff, members of the public – working across the disciplines. We had English students, high school music students, IT staff, published authors, digital humanists, computer scientists and more – and they worked together to bring their individual areas of expertise to each project.
What did you hope to get out of the hackathon and were your expectations met?
Honestly, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when we started planning. My primary objective was to make sure that we got people to make the connection between the myriad types of content in the Bodleian Libraries and the ways in which they are relevant to a wide range of the work that goes on in the University. We’re not just about books for classes or material for humanities research; we straddle the disciplines, supporting ground-breaking science and technology while providing research material for popular authors, or taking our handwritten archives and exploring the newest technologies for making them available. I think that the YourFry content was a perfect bridge for this – the list of subjects raised in Fry’s memoirs was extensive but it also fairly top level, which gave our participants a way to bring together different types of content and use what they knew from their own work or studies.
I was a little anxious beforehand that things might not gel on the day, but I was blown away by the creativity of our participants. They produced fantastic work, from a physical exploration of the way we ‘layer’ ourselves online (one brave volunteer spent an hour being covered in paper!) to plans for a mental health app, a comparison of Shakespeare and Stephen Fry and a project to turn Fry’s voice into a musical piece.
Has the YourFry hackathon inspired you to plan more events at the Bodleian?
Absolutely! We’re already chatting about future plans. There are already University members running hackathons this autumn using library data and our Shakespeare texts, and we’re talking about an Oxford cultural hackathon for next spring. The Bodleian Libraries also be running a series of events to celebrate computer scientist and mathematician Ada Lovelace next year, and are hoping to run something related to that – quite possibly related to music and technology.
What are some of the best examples you’ve seen of libraries engaging with digital and an increasingly online readership?
It’s fundamental that we get content out there in the first place, but the best examples are those that either add value to content or help members of the public to do so. The British Library has done some great work, helping researchers and developers to use British Library content for their own projects – games, enterprise, research – through their BL Labs and their Business & IP Centre. It has to be ok to experiment a bit and bring in non-traditional partners.
One of my absolute favourite projects is run by the National Library of Australia, which offers an ‘Ask a Librarian’ service to Wikipedia editors on articles related to Australia. The librarians are finding places where their knowledge and assistance has an impact beyond the traditional; their idea is that these reference enquiries help not just one person but thousands or even millions.
If you’ve got an idea for a new way to tell Stephen’s story, download the materials from the YourFry website and get creating! You’ve got until 11pm GMT on 1st January 2015 to submit your entries.