Monday, August 26, 2013

Little Free Libraries

As I slowly work up my first series of bespoke clerkmanifesto books (grafted and redesigned into old weeded, damaged, and discarded hardcover books) to distribute into Little Free Libraries I find I am paying a lot of attention to the Little Free Libraries in my neighborhood. I love these little distilled and pure Libraries and am thinking they are the brightest new representation of the popular Public Library out there in a very long time. Within the grand institutional Library systems, or at least in mine, there has been for decades now an awful lot of yammering, attention, worry, and comparison with and to technological development and Libraries keeping up with the times. There is great obsession with e-books, social media, relevance, and changing media. But I don't hear people bringing up much, on In Service days or in various Strategic Plannings, the challenge presented to us by Little Free Libraries. I don't see a lot of people sitting around wondering how Libraries, with all their late fines and institutional processes, closing times, and building upkeep, can keep up with the nimble, mind bogglingly simple to use Little Free Libraries. I don't see us worrying about responding to that challenge.

It's not so much that I actually see The Little Free Library as a challenge. It's more that if we're going to come up with fake challenges like ebooks I like this one better. These challenges are really just excuses and arguments for what we do next. And if we're hunting around for money, how about instead of a grant for iPad dispensers we get a grant to convert all our money raising bookstores into Little Free Libraries. No, not little mini houses on a post, just some shelves of no fuss, borrowable books. I look around my neighborhood and the wee little book houses are popping up in yards all over the place. Clearly it's what our constituency is interested in. Let's give them what they want, Little Free Libraries even within the Library. And then, with the big shoulders of the Public Libraries, we too can contribute to their growth and perfection.


  1. A library north of you but in the same system often has a cart of free books in the lobby--overstock from the Friends bookstore, yes, but everyday they put a cart there, it is empty or close to it by closing. And I've seen libraries in my travels that provide "swap shelves" for books (usually paperback fiction) or magazines.

    1. Oh, this is from back when I was less scrupulous about responding to comments. But I have found this and have something to say.

      Thank you for your comment.

      Actually, I have seen the sort of thing you are talking about and even addressed it in posts written later than this one. The fundamental, terrible weakness of free libraries, swap shelves, etc., is that they are not curated. When a decent friends group, or just the library itself, has a bookstore, they do best to not put out junk no one will want, and they try to organize, but I often find when they do free shelves it's all more neglected and random. The worst and least appealing books tend to pool there. So I am beginning a discussion above about taking on the challenge (or really, the wonderful freedom and flexibility) of little free libraries and applying the virtues and resources of an institutional library to their model.


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