BiblioCommons and Brooklyn Public Library Partner to Develop Library Digital Badging System

The Brooklyn Public Library and BiblioCommons Inc. are the recipients of a $250,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to create and pilot a library-based digital badging system built on the Mozilla Open Badges standard.

Inspired by the 2013 Chicago Summer of Learning program, the project will develop the technical infrastructure for participating libraries to provide their patrons with the tools to access, manage, and collect a variety of badges representing their passions, interests, and library activities, all in the familiar and supportive library environment. “We’re elated that we can now build out the infrastructure we’ve been dreaming of, and that we can work with such a great group of libraries,” said Beth Jefferson, co-founder of BiblioCommons Inc. “We are eager to explore this new role for public libraries within the evolving connected learning ecosystem.”

The grant, in addition to providing funding for the infrastructure for the system, seeks to study the effectiveness of digital badging when placed within the library. Libraries have a unique opportunity in the rapidly developing badge ecosystem, as they already have significant public trust and are often the first stop for independent and lifelong learners. Building upon this trust, the project will also develop and pilot an open source identity authentication system using a patron’s library card, allowing for collaboration with third party vendors offering badges, such as DIY.org, and validation of a patron’s ability to engage with content while retaining compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

In addition to Brooklyn Public Library, other partner libraries participating in the grant include Johnson County Library (KS), Omaha Public Library (NE), Tulsa City-County Library (OK), and The Seattle Public Library (WA). All of these libraries will experiment with a variety of programming and badge promotion opportunities in their existing BiblioCommons Summer Reading Program Sites.

“It is exciting to be at the forefront of the effort to bring digital badging to public libraries. Digital badging supports a culture of connected learning, and as community centers of learning, it is important for libraries to be a part of these efforts,” said Susan H. Hildreth, director of IMLS. “For libraries involved in this project, the digital badging platform will provide new incentives for teens and adults who participate in summer learning, STEM learning, and a wide variety of lifelong learning opportunities.”

A digital badge, like a physical Boy Scout or Girl Scout badge, represents an accomplishment or acquired skill. Digital badges began with games and other online organizations to reward players, recognize achievement, and establish credibility. They are now part of a movement, shaped by Mozilla Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and other organizations, to recognize skill development and training achievements gained through self-directed informal learning and through formal professional development activities.