Marshall among 22 winners of Knight News Challenge on Libraries

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has named a team from Marshall University among 22 winners of the Knight News Challenge on Libraries, awarding the recipients a share of $3 million for their ideas.

Launched in September 2014, the challenge asked applicants for ideas that leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgeable communities, recognizing their potential as a driver of innovation, creativity, news and information, entrepreneurship, education and social resources.

Eight of the winners will receive investments of $130,000 to $600,000, while 14 early-stage ideas, including Marshall’s, will receive $35,000 each through the Knight Prototype Fund, which helps innovators take media and information projects from idea to demo.

“There is a growing demand for libraries to evolve their role and become more dynamic, living platforms, responsive to community needs,” said John S. Bracken, Knight Foundation vice president for media innovation. “The winners are working to reinvent the ways in which people experience the library, and providing citizens with the tools and information they require to contribute and strengthen our democracy.”

A collaboration among several professors and librarians led by Dr. Monica Brooks of Marshall Libraries, Dr. David Trowbridge of the Department of History, and Burnis Morris, the Carter G. Woodson professor in the school of Journalism and Mass Communications, was selected as one of the 14 prototype winners.

In addition to the $35,000, Marshall’s team will receive training on design and innovation methodology over a six-month period.

The Marshall trio’s entry is titled This Place Matters: Using Mobile Technology to Leverage the Resources of Libraries and Share the Stories of African Americans in Central Appalachia.”

“We will leverage the reach of libraries and allow residents and visitors to central Appalachia to discover African American history through GPS-based mobile technologies (Clio) and several digital repositories,” Brooks said. “This grant will support our team of librarians, journalists and historians as we record and share central Appalachia’s unique history from the Underground Railroad to the Civil War and the long struggle for civil rights.

“Our team will extend the reach of our libraries by using Marshall Digital Scholar and Clio, two existing technologies developed by faculty at Marshall University. Clio will allow us to curate the landscape and create entries that will reach people where they stand and connect them to the resources of area libraries.”

Named after the ancient muse of history, Clio, which can be found online at, has been built by Trowbridge and students assisting him over the past two years. Clio picks up a user’s location anywhere in the United States and tells them about the history and culture that surrounds them, with a growing database that includes nearly 5,000 museums, art galleries, monuments, sculptures, and historical sites. In addition, contributors across the nation are adding hundreds of sites each month, Trowbridge said.

“We will use mobile technology to reach members of the public where they stand, creating entries in Clio ( and Marshall Digital Scholar ( that share the stories of African Americans in central Appalachia, provide scholarly content and links to library resources, and connect their sense of the past to their sense of place,” Brooks said.

Clio’s goal is to connect everyone in the United States to the history and culture that surrounds them, Trowbridge said. Each entry can provide a basic summary, detailed backstory, images and audio/video clips, as well as suggested books and articles for those who want to know more. Entries for museums and archives provide addresses, hours, phone numbers, and official websites, along with turn-by-turn directions. Because Clio can pick up a user’s present location, it can always guide them right to the place, he added.

Brooks is assistant vice president for Information Technology, Trowbridge is an associate professor of history and the director of African and African American Studies. Morris recently completed a manuscript on how Woodson used the press to sell black history (1915-1950).