By now I’m sure you’ve read about the spate of little, free libraries popping up all over the place; if you’re lucky, you may have even seen and used one. The idea is simple: volunteers build and install small book depositories in public spaces, inviting passers-by to take a book, leave a book, or both. The Little Free Library Project of Madison, Wisconsin is one of the more successful projects, though a lot of attention is also given to urban hacking Department of Urban Betterment project in New York City. Wherever they find a home, these DIY libraries are rightly heralded as testaments to reading, sharing, and community.
I think institutional libraries can learn a lot from these tiny upstarts. DIY libraries reinforce that libraries are social institutions, they fulfill needs that library theorists often ignore, and they provide an indirect commentary on the relationship between libraries and media. Here’s a short list of lessons that I think librarians can learn from the DIY library movement.