Reflecting and building on what’s been said here (including the inherent problems with the community library) is that the issue with a community library, like most community resources, are most successful when there’s some degree of active ownership from the community, vs a passive “resource.”
I consider it a very good thing when people’s stuff is around, showing bits and clues about who the people in the community are, what they’re interested in, etc. It starts to make a place feel more like home, with an element of coziness and “lived in.” But there’s a fine line to be mindful of.
Knowing what I know now (and how many times we’ve had to find ways to get rid of stuff that was randomly left behind) I’m increasingly hesitant to ideas that start with "let’s just pool a bunch of stuff so that people can use it!’ Left to entropy, stuff becomes disorganized. Worse, over time, the line between “stuff” blurs into “junk” or “trash.” Clutter tends to attract more clutter. I’m actually way less worried about people not returning books than people dropping random stuff on the shelves that just takes up space.
No matter what you do, you’re going to be battling that entropy of stuff.
This isn’t to say that a community library is a bad idea - but it’s a more active undertaking than I think most people expect.
I’ve never found an organization who can accomplish this without some significant buy-in from the community to help with the organization and care-taking of a resources like this. That’s true of tool libraries, hacker/maker spaces, and even shared kitchens. I’ve seen variations of this - but the theme among the ones that succeed are that the solution is simple, and often, the core of the solution is a person (or people) and not technology.
Rather than go for a big collection of book cases, why not try something smaller and more focused? If you get it right on the smaller scale, you’ve got much better odds of figuring out how to scale it in a way that doesn’t cost you lots of unnecessary time and effort in the future.
The #1 mistake in community building is doing it by yourself.
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On Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 10:46 AM, Julia Ferguson [email protected] wrote:
We’ve had a community library at Cowork Frederick from day one (over four years ago).
It’s grown slowly over the years and now has a really nice diverse range of topics. It gets minimal use, but many people like the idea that we do this, so we do. If nothing else, it helps reinforce a culture of sharing.
Nothing should go on in the shared library that members are not willing to share and accept the risks that come with that. Our books have been used as monitor stands and that’s OK with us. At least they’re getting used. A recent caterer even used a bunch of them to create varied heights for platters of food. It looked really cool.
Our bookshelf isn’t full yet, but when it is our method for culling out books will be to pick a week when we give members 10 little stickers they can put on the books they want us to keep. Any books without stickers on them after that week will be donated to the public library, who will either use them or recycle them as they see fit, or could be used for some other creative purpose. If we ever do the expansion I long to do, I’ve contemplated creating quiet/phone rooms using books like bricks. I’ve also thought about decorating a wall with a collage of book covers. So many things can be done with these great assets.
As a side note, we also have a community office supply that has a take some leave some rule that has members keeping the community stocked on office supplies (we buy paper and printer cartridges, but that’s about it). It has, at times, become a dumping ground for odd stuff. We just freecycle what sits around for a long time without getting used.
On Tuesday, November 29, 2016 at 11:29:56 AM UTC-5, Tyler Byrd wrote:
I’m thinking about adding a community library to our space. Specifically 5 or 6 book cases full. If you’ve done something similar I’ve got a couple questions for you.
- Do you find it get’s much use?
- How to you track books and who has them? Software?
- Anything else I should know?
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