This is going to be the first of what will hopefully be a long set of blog posts. In the last couple of months I have been struggling with idea of libraries as a concept. It started with a presentation I did for our librarians in the library system where I work. The presentation ended with me questioning what it is to be a library. Here began a long list of experiences that are forcing me to rethink what a library is. I am going to begin by sharing some these experiences with you. The first is (while not really the first, but the most meaningful) was meeting Sarah at ALA Annual in DC. Sarah is the Itinerant librarian and goes by the name @librarian on Twitter.
The Itinerant Librarian was one of the most inspiring people I have met at a conference. This is a person who travels the world with a “library” in a briefcase. The story she told me is that previously she had no library experience and just thought one day that the world needed a traveling librarian. So, she left her home and had no job, no money, no financial support, no “real” library backing her up and created this “library” of books that she carries with her for people to check out. I truly regret not having my flip camera on me and recording the amazing conversation we had.
She explained to me that the concept of the library is that she goes to a coffee shop, restaurant, park, etc… and puts out the books she has in her briefcase on the table and signs people up for a library card. People can check-out the books as long as she is there. When she is ready to leave, you have to return your books and she moves on to the next place. When she needed a place to sleep she used couchsurfer.com to find a place to sleep and when she was hungry sometimes she had to each out of rubbish bins (she’s English and has a great accent and I could listen to her say “Rubbish Bins” to me for days on end). She has a uniform and the library has a set of rules and regulations that all the patrons have to follow to get a library card.
You can read the rules and regulations here at the “library’s” official website:
And her blog (that is no longer being updated) here
Follow her on twitter:
When I refer to this as a “library” instead of a library, I mean that as a compliment. I mean that this isn’t a library as we think about them in the United States. The rules are different (better), the concept is brilliant, it totally challenged my concept of what a library is and can be, and her project has set in motion hundreds of thoughts and ideas for me.
Most importantly, it made me realize the importance of libraries as a concept and the little importance that a building, management, money, organization, rules, etc… have on what it means to be a library. In fact, this might be the most pure form of librarianship that I have encountered.