Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Little Free Libraries - Brainstorming session

I've mentioned these libraries a couple of times now in my blog and I want to go into more detail here and outline what we discussed on Saturday at our first brainstorming session.

What are they?

You can find out all about them on their blog and in a post by Jaime, the PhD student in charge of the Syracuse leg.  We hope to set up 5 of these wee libraries in the Near West Side (area bounded by S West St, W Onondaga St, Delaware St, S Geddes St and W Fayette St) where there is no public library.

These libraries will be out in the open and contain around 15-20 books which can be removed and returned whenever people wish.  The tag line is 'Take a book.  Return a book' and the books can be on any subject and can be themed per library or a random selection.  They can appeal to all ages, be in any language and pictorial or verbose.

What did I think of the session?

I was really impressed by the enthusiasm of those involved in this initiative.  Present were members of the community, students from Visual and Preforming Arts faculty of SU and students from the iSchool.  Everyone was keen to get this project off the ground and it was fantastic to be surrounded by people with such positive attitudes - something that can be rare in the library world.

In all of the group sessions we were split up so that people from each contingent were split across groups.  This really showed the different backgrounds and we could all learn from each other - I knew nothing of the community, its diverse population, languages spoken, levels of literacy etc. nor how to go about considering how to build these libraries.  In turn, the iSchool students could talk about books, their significance (or non-significance), collection development and community engagement.

One of the recurring themes was how to get people with low literacy enthused about reading (note, I am not saying books).  A beautiful idea suggested from a literacy program was that a book be published with a photograph on one side of a page and a blank page next to it for people to write their interpretation of the image.  We do not need to fill these libraries with novels, we can add art books, children's books, magazines, travel guides...anything that might promote reading.  A good idea might be to include common cards in the items so that people can say why they did or did not enjoy it to promote discussion among readers.
 La Casita
Around a third of the community is Latino and one of our main objectives it to work with La Casita Cultural Centre in order to maintain and educate about the culture that people may have left behind in their home countries.  As a newcomer to this city I can appreciate the need for a sense of home and recognition of roots.

Tied to all of our discussions was the idea of 'what is a book?' and 'why do we like books?'  This was a particularly interesting discussion to have with non-librarians!  I was surprised by how much the gathered group held reading and books in hight esteem.  One lady, Mother Earth, commented that everyone is a book in themselves, we all have an oral history, we can all be read.  Some people are more readable than others and she is fascinated by each and every human since they all have a different story to tell.  This lead to a discussion of libraries 'lending out' people along with library cafe vouchers and encouraging conversation among the community - a really intriguing idea that I, along with my group, are going to investigate as part of a project into what the 2025 library will look like.

So, I have by no means touched on all the things we discussed but I have given a few tidbits of what I found interesting and thought provoking.


  1. That's amazing Erin!! Please keep everyone updated on this project!!