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CALL FOR ENTRIES: Competition showcases student productions, offers instructors a fun and thought-provoking class assignment

April 30, 2008

Jennifer McLennan
(202) 296-2296 x 121
jennifer [at] arl [dot] org

Washington, DC – April 30, 2008 – Six library, student, and advocacy organizations today announced the Second Annual Sparky Awards, a contest that recognizes the best new short videos on the value of sharing and aims to broaden the discussion of access to scholarly research by inviting students to express their views creatively.

This year’s contest is being organized by SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) with additional co-sponsorship by the Association of College and Research Libraries, the Association of Research Libraries, Penn Libraries (at the University of Pennsylvania), Students for Free Culture, and The Student PIRGs. Details are online at

The 2008 contest theme is “MindMashup: The Value of Information Sharing.” Well-suited for adoption as a college class assignment, the Sparky Awards invite contestants to submit videos of two minutes or less that imaginatively portray the benefits of the open, legal exchange of information. Mashup is an expression referring to a song, video, Web site, or software application that combines content from more than one source.

To be eligible, submissions must be publicly available on the Internet – on a Web site or in a digital repository – and available for use under a Creative Commons License. The Winner will receive a cash prize of $1,000 along with a Sparky Award statuette. Two Runners Up will each receive $500 plus a personalized award certificate. At the discretion of the judges, additional Special Merit Awards may be designated. The award-winning videos will be screened at the January 2009 American Library Association Midwinter Conference in Denver.

Entries must be received by November 30, 2008. Winners will be announced in January 2009. The Winner of the First Annual Sparky Awards in 2007 was Habib Yazdi, a student at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for “Share” (

“If the medium is the message, then a video competition is an apt means of encouraging the YouTube generation to think about the challenging intellectual property issues shaping their communication environment,” said SPARC Executive Director Heather Joseph.

“This video contest is an excellent venue to engage students and to explore with them the intricacies of re-using content,” said Anu Vedantham, Director of the Weigle Information Commons at Penn Libraries. “The videos that emanate from this and similar contests provide vibrant examples of student creativity and ownership of new media. At Penn, I have noticed that mashup video contests and video classroom assignments engage students and faculty in new ways with academic material, and that video creation can be effectively integrated in many disciplines including writing, history and language studies. Through involvement with the 2009 Sparky Awards, libraries and new media centers have a valuable opportunity to reach out to faculty and students.”

“We’re excited to be a part of the Sparky Awards again this year,” said Karen Rustad, Core Team Chair for Students for Free Culture. “More and more students are having to manage issues of access and re-use in their daily school work. It’s a great time to talk about the potential for open sharing.”

The contest takes as its inspiration a quote from George Bernard Shaw: “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”

For details, see the contest Web site at

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SPARC is pleased to welcome these co-sponsors for the 2008 Sparky Awards:

Association of College and Research Libraries

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), represents more than 13,500 academic and research librarians and interested individuals. It is the only individual membership organization in North America that develops programs, products and services to meet the unique needs of academic and research librarians. Its initiatives enable the higher education community to understand the role that academic libraries play in the teaching, learning and research environments.

Association of Research Libraries

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 123 research libraries in North America. Its mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations.

Penn Libraries

The Penn Libraries system includes sixteen libraries and has been in continuous operation since 1750. Penn Libraries actively explore new media by providing courseware support, encouraging technology integration and supporting creative study through flexible collaborative spaces. The Weigle Information Commons, a joint undertaking of the School of Arts and Sciences, the Office of the Provost and the Penn Libraries, is a high-tech space that provides undergraduates with integrated academic support services for library research, writing, communication, new media, time management and planning strategies.

Students for Free Culture

Students for Free Culture (SFC) is a diverse, non-partisan group of students and young people who are working to get their peers involved in the free culture movement. Launched in April 2004 at Swarthmore College, SFC has helped establish student groups at colleges and universities across the United States. Today, SFC chapters exist at over 30 colleges, from Maine to California, with many more getting started around the world.

Students for Free Culture was founded by two Swarthmore students after they sued voting-machine manufacturer Diebold for abusing copyright law in 2003. Named after the book Free Culture by Stanford University law professor Lawrence Lessig, SFC is part of a growing movement, with roots in the free software / open source community, media activists, creative artists and writers, and civil libertarians. Groups with which SFC has collaborated include Creative Commons, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge, and Downhill Battle.

The Student PIRGs

The Student PIRGs are a network of state-based, student-directed and funded public interest organizations active on over 200 college campuses in 20 states.


The Sparky Awards are organized and sponsored by SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition). An alliance supported and funded by hundreds of academic libraries and research institutions, SPARC promotes new scholarly communication models that use the Internet to expand sharing of information. SPARC was created in 1997 as an initiative of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and operates under ARL's non-profit status.

SPARC is a founder of the Alliance for Taxpayer Access, representing taxpayers, patients, physicians, researchers, and institutions that support open public access to taxpayer-funded research.