Wednesday, May 08, 2013 11:54 AM
The April launch of the Digital Public Library of America brings the knowledge-sharing we love about local libraries to the internet.
This article originally appeared at Shareable.
Public libraries exist to ensure that people have free and open access to information. The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), which launched in April, aims to provide that same access to information and materials, in the digital realm.
A project several years in the making, there are three facets to the DPLA: it’s an open portal that provides access to a variety of resources including documents, photographs, historic artifacts, film footage, art and other culturally significant materials; it's a tech platform for people to build upon (think apps that reveal geotagged materials); and it's an innovation and advocacy organization that works to make, and keep, content openly available to the public.
Launching with over two million materials from museums, libraries, schools, cultural centers and more, the DPLA is just getting started. The grand vision is to have the library be an ever-growing hub for librarians, students, teachers, artists, developers, historians and anyone else who is interested in seeing, learning about, using, repurposing, expanding and sharing materials.
John Palfrey, president of the Board of Directors of the DPLA sees the library as a symbol of the networked age. As he put it, “The most exciting idea is that we cannot begin to imagine the extraordinary things that librarians and their many partners can accomplish with this open platform and such extraordinarily rich materials...We will create new knowledge together and make accessible, free to all, information that people need in order to thrive in a democracy.”
Wednesday, February 22, 2012 3:52 PM
“There are 13,659 payphones on NYC sidewalks, even though there are over 17 million cell phones,” reads a poster designed by New York architect John Locke. Seeing an opportunity for creative reuse and community building, Designboom writes, Locke is turning obsolete phone booths into mini libraries.
Passersby are encouraged to take a book or leave a book from the improvised bibliothecas, which are reminiscent of the Little Free Libraries born in Wisconsin or the Phoneboox found in the UK. Locke hopes the tiny metro libraries, part of his Department of Urban Betterment project, will encourage an increased sense of local camaraderie, he says via email: “More people in the neighborhood sharing, talking, and just having a heightened awareness and sense of engagement with their surroundings.”
So far, two phone booths have been converted, and Locke dreams of them taking over the city. “I want these to be cheap, fast, and easily reproducible. Ubiquity is the goal. The only costs are minimal—the price of lumber and time on a CNC cutting machine. After that, the shelves slot together and slide right into the booths with no hardware or fasteners required.”
The little phone booth libraries marry whimsy and practicality in every way. Nestled between used copies of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Middlesex, the existing payphone remains fully functional—just in case one of those 17 million cell phones runs out of juice.
Images courtesy of John Locke.
Margret Aldrich is an associate editor at Utne Reader. Follow her on Twitter at @mmaldrich.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011 2:07 PM
We’ve all taken sanctuary in a good book at the end of a hard day, a hard week, a hard month, but do the words on those pages contain actual healing properties? Bibliotherapists at the London-based establishment The School of Life think so, calling the personalized book-list prescriptions they offer “the perfect way for you to discover those amazing but often elusive works of literature that can illuminate and even change your life.”
Writer Alexandra Redgrave, of enRoute, decides to try out the shop’s bibliotherapy service, reassured that there is a long history backing the power of books. She explains:
Although bibliotherapy might sound like just another clever name for the self-help book section, the practice has existed since at least the end of the 18th century in Europe and the beginning of the 19th century in the U.S., where mental-health hospitals started setting up libraries in the 1840s as a means to treat patients. The American physician Benjamin Rush noted in 1812 that certain novels could cure melancholy—this at a time when it was commonly believed that sensationalist texts caused insanity. And British soldiers were prescribed fiction after WWII to help them recuperate from post-traumatic shock.
At her private session, Redgrave—considering a career shift and seeking courage—answers questions about her reading history, her childhood, and what is missing from her life, as the bibliotherapist thoughtfully takes notes. “Have you ever read The Year of the Hare?” the therapist asks, ruminating on the right book for Redgrave’s needs. “It’s about a Finnish journalist who takes a drive in the countryside, accidentally hits a hare and disappears into the woods to help it recover, leaving his former life behind for the call of the wild.” Redgrave is prescribed that novel on the spot, along with the promise of a longer reading list in a few days.
In addition to individual, group, and remote bibliotherapy sessions, The School of Life offers an extensive menu of options for optimizing personal fulfillment: classes (How to Balance Work with Life, How to Be Cool); secular sermons (on compassion, strangers, storytelling); lectures (Fear of Failure, Finding the Perfect Partner); and psychotherapy consultations. But bibliotherapy remains one of its most popular services.
Check out the sample prescriptions available online for the recently bereaved, the sleep deprived parent, the newly retired, the gainfully unemployed, and the broken-hearted—who are advised to read How to Be Free by Tom Hodgkinson. Lonely hearts will soon “bid adieu to sadness,” The School of Life claims, and “embrace a new way of living.” Until then, at least they’ll have a good book to curl up with.
, licensed under
Thursday, September 01, 2011 3:54 PM
Andrew Carnegie built an impressive 2,509 libraries around the turn of the 20th century. Now Rick Brooks and Todd Bol are on a mission to top his total with their two-foot by two-foot Little Free Libraries, reports Michael Kelley in Library Journal.
The diminutive, birdhouse-like libraries, which Brooks and Bol began installing in Hudson and Madison, Wisconsin, in 2009, are typically made of wood and Plexiglas and are designed to hold about 20 books for community members to borrow and enjoy. Offerings include anything from Russian novels and gardening guides to French cookbooks and Dr. Seuss.
Each Little Free Library runs on the honor system, displaying a sign that asks patrons to Take a Book, Leave a Book. “Everybody asks, ‘Aren’t they going to steal the books?’” Brooks told Kelley. “But you can’t steal a free book.”
Fifty libraries have been built so far, with 30 more underway and plans to expand into Chicago, Long Island, and elsewhere. Brooks and Bol have a long way to go to reach their goal of 2,510 libraries, but they’re digging the ride. “At a personal, human level, it’s very thrilling how it excites people,” Bol shared with Kelley. “But on a larger plane, it’s such a nice spark for literacy, art, and community all at once.”
Check out (so to speak) the gallery of charming Little Free Libraries below and visit the organization’s website to learn how you can bring one to your hometown.
Source: Library Journal
Images courtesy of Little Free Library.
Monday, March 21, 2011 9:34 AM
“Among the many things the Japanese people are mourning this week are their libraries,” writes The Book Bench’s Macy Halford in memoriam. The 9.0-magnitude earthquake that kickstarted a ring of Pacific tsunamis, displaced thousands of people, and terminally damaged multiple nuclear reactors recently has also shaken the Japanese library system to its knees.
Halford noticed an odd, semi-social photographic trend rumbling under the internet’s surface: Japanese people were uploading hundreds of images of denuded library shelves and fields of unorganized books. “Why libraries?” Halford wondered,
I think it has to do with what is not shown in the pictures more than with what is. Books shaken to the floor provide a good visual measurement of the power of the quake: we can easily visualize how the rows looked before, how nice and tidy they were, and we can imagine the sort of force needed to dislodge them. But the images also allow us to glimpse the destruction in a relatively benign environment—books are not people. We hope that the libraries’ caretakers are safe, and, in the buildings where only the books, not the shelves, have tumbled, we reassure ourselves that they are. In many of these photos, we can easily envision someone coming along to set things right. These are images of hope, as much as of disaster, and they speak to the idea that the things most fundamental to a culture—in this case, its codified knowledge—have not been lost.
We know how important public libraries are to a seamless, functional democracy, so we hope all of those books get shelved quickly and the wheels of knowledge start spinning again.
Source: The Book Bench
Images from yfrog and Plixi. More pictures at Togetter.
Monday, July 19, 2010 1:53 PM
From the Governing magazineIdea Center:
Two Baltimore libraries now have another service to offer their patrons: grocery ordering and pickup. The City Health Department's Virtual Supermarket Project (VSP) lets patrons living in "food deserts"—areas without shops offering healthy food at reasonable prices—order and pickup groceries at the library. Once a week, library visitors place their orders online with a local grocer and pay with cash, check, credit or food stamps. Patrons can pick up their orders the next day without paying a delivery fee.
Related reading at Utne.com:
Poster art for the food justice movement
Detroit Rock City: Farmer's Paradise?
Food Among the Ruins: An Interview with Mark Dowie
Source: Governing (article not yet online)
Image by House of Sims, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, July 06, 2010 1:16 PM
If you’ve seen the film High Fidelity, you may remember the scene where John Cusack’s character, Rob Gordon, explains his autobiographical cataloguing system for his vinyl collection. He indexes his records by mentally tagging them with neurotic pieces of personal information. It’s a tad obsessive—and totally comprehensible. Over at HTMLGIANT, Roxane Gay reveals an autobiographical index of her book collection:
I bought The Book of Night Women because I’m from the Caribbean and Maud Newton said it was great, on her blog. I bought Then We Came to the End because I love writing from the collective point of view and I wanted to see if the book was as good as the hype. It was. I bought Revolutionary Road because the movie came out and I thought, “I bet the book is better.” It was. I bought American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld because intensely disliked Prep, as in, I have a visceral reaction just thinking about the book and I wanted to see what kind of reaction I would have to American Wife. I quite enjoyed it. It’s a slow, subtle book but well worth the read. I bought Gotham Diaries because I read in Entertainment Weekly that Spike Lee’s wife had co-written the book and I wondered if it was any good. Not so much. I could go on. For almost every book in my collection, I remember why I bought it, what was going on in my life, who I was in that moment.
Image by ♥ellie♥, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, May 27, 2010 4:36 PM
This is just too amazing not to share: Pay a visit to The Hypothetical Library, where Charlie Orr curates (and designs the covers of) a fantastic collection of hypothetical books by real authors. From his inaugural post, back in February:
The idea for this blog is to create an opportunity for a part-time book cover designer (me) to collaborate, with a wide range of amazing, contemporary writers on a project outside of their normal body of work.
The catch is that these books will never really exist.
I ask each writer to provide flap copy for a book that they haven’t, won’t, but in theory could, write, and then I design a cover for it.
. . . One of the frustrations of [non-hypothetical] book cover design is that you are usually assigned projects and authors by a publisher. The competition is fierce, and assignments are not always exciting or ideal. Work is offered and you take it. The Hypothetical Library is my workaround. With this project I hope to collaborate with as many wonderful writers as I can get—freed from the constraints of various publishing houses, editors, and budgets.
Source: The Hypothetical Library
Image by Dawn Endico, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010 3:57 PM
When the Brooklyn Public Library temporarily suspended service on Sundays last summer, residents improvised and set up shop on the sidewalk instead, reports Marianne Do in Next American City. Volunteers set up the library dubbed “Branch,” and gathered hundreds of books to lend out from their card table and crate stacks. Patrons filled out “memory cards” for the books they checked out, scrawling a message about the neighborhood on a card kept inside the book. Do reports that since closing last December, the library has been housed at the Brooklyn Hospital Center.
Source: Next American City
Wednesday, April 21, 2010 2:19 PM
There’s a great post on Chicago’s Book Bike over at Shareable. Paul M. Davis profiles Gabriel Levinson, who , since 2008, has ridden “his custom-built Book Bike into public parks across Chicago every weekend, weather permitting. Heading from park to park, Levinson distributes books donated by publishers to anyone interested.”
Here’s some more:
Levinson only appears at public parks and free events, ensuring that there is no barrier to entry. As he explains, “the mission is to build and cherish a private library regardless of class or economic state, which is why the Book Bike is only at public parks. It’s a place where every single person, whether you have a roof over your head or don't, has the right and privilege to be.”
“I believe that one of the greatest gifts of being alive, of being human, is that of literacy. If you can read, your world suddenly becomes wide open, all knowledge is at your fingertips and there is no telling where that can lead someone in life. ‘Teach a man to fish’ is such a tired maxim. Why can’t the common phrase be ‘teach a person to read’?”
Levinson has two goals: to create more readers and more consumers for beleaguered publishers. “The idea is that I’ll put a book in your hand,” he says. “Maybe you’ll want to buy a book next time around. My hope has been, in addition to that, people will be inspired to go buy more books.”
Friday, December 04, 2009 5:40 PM
Libraries are now piggybacking on the success of social networking platforms by unleashing their own shelf-inspired hub, BiblioCommons, which aims to create communities of patrons who help connect one another to new books to read by allowing users to log recommendations of books in the library system’s catalogues. So far, The Walrus reports, BiblioCommons has rolled out in several cities across Canada, with plans to launch in California and Australia as well.
The brains behind the book system, Beth Jefferson, believes we’re on the verge of “a cultural shift toward ‘object-centric’ networking, centered on common interests as the novelty of Facebook-style ‘egocentric’ social networking, based on friends of friends, wanes.” Let’s hope she’s right.
Source: The Walrus
Tuesday, September 08, 2009 10:34 AM
Got space for thousands of zines? The Papercut Zine Library—which lends an unusual collection of 7,000 zines, indie books, periodicals, and audio/visual materials in addition to hosting community events—is looking for a new home in the Boston/Cambridge area. The collective-run, free lending library lost its space in Cambridge’s Democracy Center on August 15. It had operated there since May 2005.
As outlined on the collective’s Myspace page, Papercut is looking for at least 180 square feet of space in an accessible area. Joining an existing community/arts/organizing space is an option, and so is renting low-cost commercial space. There’s just one absolute: “that the freedom to make decisions about the library’s internal operation stay within our collective. That is, we are not interested in another library absorbing our collective if it means the collective will not be involved.”
Anyone who has ideas or tips should get in touch with Papercut.
Source: Papercut Zine Library
Image by gruntzooki, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, April 23, 2009 10:05 AM
Alt Wire is a morning digest of links and information collected and explained by a different guest blogger every weekday. Today's guest is zine librarian Alycia Sellie. We asked her for five links and here's what she came up with.
Zine World: Zine World is the most well-known print source for reviews and information about zines, and it's web presence is formidable as well with a comprehensive list of links for everything from postal rates, upcoming events and zine news.
Queer Zine Archive Project: QZAP is a free digital zine archive that strives to "preserve queer zines and make them available to other queers, researchers, historians, punks, and anyone else who has an interest DIY publishing and underground queer communities." This site is beautifully designed, perpetually growing with new titles, extremely inspiring, and an amazing historical record.
Zine Wiki: The amazing thing about Zine Wiki is that the phlethora of information about zines already there is just a start; the fantastic thing is that anyone can add and edit (meta)data about their zine, or add themselves to the extensive list of zinesters!
We Make Zines Ning: For more meta and social networking (when your stapling arm gets too tired), the We Make Zines Ning is a place (that isn't those other sites that we all know too well) to promote your zine, find out about zine events and even friend your local zine librarian.
Nobody Cares about your Stupid Zine Podcast: Here's a new zine project for your ears, ipods and RSS readers: Alex Wrekk (of Stolen Sharpie Revolution) and Mark Parker (Independent Publishing Resource Center librarian and creator of zinethug.com) team together to interview zinesters far and wide, and I am looking forward to the next installment!
Bio: Alycia Sellie is an academic art librarian living in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. After participating in the first ever Zine Librarians (un)Conference in Seattle, Washington, she is busy planning the NYC Zine Fest to be held at the Brooklyn Lyceum in June 2009, and can be reached at http://alycia.brokenja.ws/.
Previous Alt Wire Guests: Davy Rothbart, Roger White, Dan Sinker, Phil Yu, Matt Novak, Jason Marsh, David LaBounty, Jen Angel, Will Braun, Regan Hofmann, Josh Breitbart, Andrew Lam, Jessica Valenti, Jessica Hoffmann, Noah Scalin, Rinku Sen, Paddy Johnson, Melissa Mcewan, Fatemeh Fakhraie , Joe Biel, Anne Elizabeth Moore
Friday, October 10, 2008 10:41 AM
In a move seen by many Environmental Protection Agency staffers as an effort to “suppress information on environmental and public health-related topics,” the Bush administration took a wrecking ball to the EPA’s network of technical libraries in 2006, locking the doors of some libraries and removing scads of materials from collections. Now the outrage expressed by scientists and librarians seems to have had an effect. High Country News reports that at least four of the closed libraries have been reopened and access to some library holdings restored.
But how much damage was done in the interim? According to HCN, the public, agency staffers, and outside researchers lost access to thousands of documents that were moved into repositories where they would supposedly be digitized. But those repositories “have grown into giant information dumps whose contents will remain un-cataloged for years to come.”
A press release by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) quotes its associate director, Carol Goldberg, saying that even with the reopenings, “EPA will still accord its own scientists and the public less access to information than it did back in 2005,” and the closures leave in their “wake scattered and incomplete collections.” Among the libraries the administration locked up was a specialized chemical library, which was closed “with no notice to the scientists who rely on those holdings to analyze new pesticides and toxic chemicals,” according to HCN. PEER says a “small portion of holdings” from that library will now be available at an EPA headquarters library as a “special Chemical Collection.”
Much remains unknown about the fallout from the closures, according to president of the American Library Association, Jim Retting, whose congressional testimony on the matter is quoted by HCN. Retting told Congress:
Unfortunately, there continues to be a lot that we don't know: exactly what materials have been being shipped around the country, whether there are duplicate materials in other EPA libraries, whether these items have been or will be digitized, and whether a record is being kept of what is being dispersed and what is being discarded. We remain concerned that years of research and studies about the environment may be lost forever.
Image by Joe Crawford, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, August 01, 2008 11:53 AM
An economic downturn could be a mixed blessing for U.S. libraries. On the one hand, recession drives up library usage, as more people borrow—instead of buy—books. Libraries also provide information (and computer access) for job seekers, as well as cash-strapped citizens who are learning about a more frugal DIY ethic. Both the New York Times and National Public Radio have recently reported on this phenomenon.
Caveat lector, though. As we saw in 2003, tough economic times can also spur budget cuts, putting a strain on already-thin public and school library resources. Better-but-not-best-case-scenario, libraries will have to serve increased demand on static budgets. The FISH Bits blog, all about “creating great school and public libraries,” has some smart thoughts on how libraries can thrive during this crunch time.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008 9:57 AM
During World War I, a British soldier known only by his initials, JM, kept detailed visual journals of his life in the trenches of France and Belgium. The journals are filled with picturesque battlefield watercolors and wartime carnage but can also sport a bitter humor. One image, captioned “A battle in Flanders as pictured by the daily papers,” shows us a well-organized battle. The next, “Not pictured by the daily papers,” gives us a heap of dead bodies against a washed-out, smoky backdrop. The entire sketchbooks have been digitized by the Canadian University of Victoria’s libraries for us to peer through, giving an unprecedented visceral look into a bloody chapter of history.
Monday, November 05, 2007 1:29 PM
Michael Gorra offers a personalized tour of New England's town libraries at The Smart Set, weaving history lessons with descriptions of some of his favorite sites. He’s the perfect person to do so: For years Gorra has been stopping to visit town libraries throughout New England, exploring their histories, modern-day collections, and continuing significance for the townspeople. “Every one of the libraries I’ve collected,” he writes, "has had that essential quality, that sense of peace and purpose.” Check out the slideshow, too, for some cool library pics.
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