I’ve not said much about the project since it was launched back in September. In the interest of sharing imperfectly, here’s an update!
Jordan and I have a dataset to work through (big ups to Jordan for her mad skills – I followed maybe 2% of what she was doing with ArcGIS) and we’ve been able to confirm several suspicions. We’ve got a dissemination plan, but just have to get going on it. That’s always the hard part, isn’t it? I’ve been running my LFL® with some success – it’s pretty well used but I’m sure I haven’t radically changed anyone’s life for the better just yet. I’ll leave that to the great folks over at TPL (insert tip of cap here). Otherwise, I’m trying to wrap my head around some critical theories to use as frameworks as we move forward with the analysis. This is outside of my comfort zone and is slow going.
In no particular order, here are some random thoughts I’ve had about the project that I intend to further probe, a couple of months in.
- This is totally a trend among the middle class – even strangers I speak to agree that it’s quite trendy. We already have our suspicions about the quality of material available in LFL® … what happens when we hit Peak Urban Whimsy and every other house has one in their front yard? I’ve already been privy to several steward conversations about how to drum up traffic. Why would you even run one if nobody is interested? I really don’t get this. I’m trying, but I don’t understand the motivation.
- What does this say about our consumerist society? We have so much stuff kicking around that we don’t value enough to keep for ourselves, but can’t bear to recycle. Other people must be interested in my old VHS tapes and ancient diet books, mustn’t they?
- Are neighbourhood book exchanges the Uber of the library world? Is this a bold new direction in the sharing economy and Big Society? If so, what impact does that have on actual libraries?
- What do authors think of LFL®? Particularly when their publishers participate in “takeovers” (yes, it’s a thing)? LFL®, or any other neighbourhood book exchange program, aren’t covered by a Public Lending Right program. Authors definitely got their knickers in a knot (and rightly so – for many reasons, not the least of which remuneration) over the Toronto Public Library’s ill fated “sell your books to us” project; why have we not heard much about where they stand on this alterna-library trend? Margaret Atwood, if you are reading (!!) this, tell us what you think!
- Why does everyone love these things so darned much? The installation in Newmarket was a fascinating case study. What is it about a pseudo-library branch (not actually a library branch) that everyone finds so charming? I’ve seen commentary on aesthetics and the power of delight to capture the public’s imagination. What can public libraries do to learn from the success (working definition of success still up in the air, for sure) of LFL®? What is it about LFL® that makes people feel good while public libraries are standing by and wondering “what’s wrong with us?”.
…. only half-formed thoughts at the moment. Commentary and discussion welcome!