I admit that I am a heavy watcher of PBS programs (my DVR is full of NOVA, Frontline, and Bill Moyers). I was happy to have an opportunity to work with the PBS program POV on some of their digital initiatives last year, and get insight into some of the work they do. POV airs independent documentaries during the summer months on most PBS stations. They also have a significant community engagement initiative where they loan their programs on DVD to public libraries, among other groups (museums, community centers, etc.), and they hold structured screenings of the film.
I have authored a paper that looks at the civic engagement impact these structured events have on attendees, specifically within the context of Public Libraries. A pre-print of the article is available here, and the published version is available at Public Library Quarterly’s website. The paper abstract is below:
This project asks the question, Can libraries act as places for promoting civic engagement through the use of socially and culturally significant documentaries? In this initiative, documentaries are screened at public libraries throughout the United States and are followed by post-screening discussions. Coordinating librarians and audience attendees are surveyed to uncover the outcomes of each event’s civic-engagement. Results indicate that the screening of socially and cultural significant documentaries at public libraries, combined with post-screening discussions, can positively impact library patrons’ interest in becoming more civically engaged and foster a greater understanding of the issues raised by the films.