Small is an important [re]action in libraries

Seems the wheel keeps turning, when it’s powered by cultural and community interest.  I remember when I first moved to my suburb with a young family, over 20 years ago. Beecroft had it’s own children’s library, run and staffed entirely by volunteers. This was the greatest thing, and perfect for an age of literacy, knowledge, curiosity and excitement which was powered by the best in youth works in both fiction and non-fiction collections.

Beecroft Children’s Library was a vibrant and significant part of the Beecroft-Cheltenham community for over 50 years.  It was important for two reasons:

  • it was an important resource for the area’s youth, complementing the high quality schools the area is renowned for; and
  • it was a good example of volunteerism, with it’s fund-raising social activities a focal point for the community, as well as the volunteer staffing of the library.

In our connected era, the notion, purpose, and function of libraries are being challenged. In this context, it’s great to see the ways in which grass-roots action is positioning ‘volunteer’ libraries once again in new ways to meet new needs.

I love the the trend of teeny-weeny libraries in little playhouses. The Corner Library is the latest in a slew of “micro-libraries” cropping up at different locations across the United States. Currently situated in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, this treehouse-sized book shop is the brainchild of artist Colin McMullan. A mini replica of the classic public library, it contains everything from books to ‘zines to newspapers to comics, all available to check out for free- all you need is access to the lock code. Browse the titles and learn more here!

In much the same way the Great British Phone Box seems to be living on as a tiny library. The red telephone box is a British design classic. And many of these iconic boxes, as well as more modern boxes are getting a new lease of life as part of our innovative Adopt a Kiosk programme. Sometimes this newley adopted phonebox becomes a micro-library.

Meanwhile, the Town of Clinton in New York’s Hudson Valley recently christened a bright red British telephone kiosk as “America’s Littlest Library.” The Book Booth, a branch of the Clinton Community Library houses about 100 books and is part of the library’s book exchange program. Staino in the Library Journal  explains how the library’s Friends’ group created the branch library from the classic British telephone booth. The idea came from Claudia Cooley, a library Friend, who was familiar with the recent British trend of transforming no longer used booths into art galleries, toilets, and, in one case, a pub. Cooley envisioned upcycling the booth, which had long stood outside a local café, as a way to bring together a community that does not have a town center.

The Occupy Wall Street library encouraged readers to set up People’s Libraries around the country: “if you’d like to open a branch of the People’s Library in your New York neighborhood, find a [Privately Owned Public Space], bring down some books and meet your neighbors. It all starts with a few books in a box.”

Wow – public spaces that people own adopted for ‘libraries by people’ is great!

GalleyCat also suggests that we explore free eBook collections at eBookNewser, Project Gutenberg or the Internet Archive for ideas. Post your list on your blog, Facebook page, LibraryThing page, Twitter account, Goodreads page or Tumblr blog.

Seems to me that the small [re]action in libraries has a lot going for it!  It’s all part of the cultural voice crying out that LIBRARIES MATTER.

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