Will ‘Little Free Libraries’ do what eReaders didn’t?

Many years ago, in a neighbour’s store-room down Hildon Place, a few of us stacked our books together and called it a library. When the idea caught, we began issuing hand-made library cards. There was no organization to support us, but there was no shortage of kind old aunts who fed the librarians and patrons well.

So naturally I’ve been fascinated by the ‘Little Free Library‘ movement that’s been cropping up outside homes. The library (as you can see here) looks like a large bird house with a door and a plaque.

But will a little box on the curb spur a new interest in reading? We were hyperventilating with optimism when eReaders took the world by storm almost a decade ago.

A little library with no overdue fines looks quaint, but unlike digital trends, these decidedly analog ‘platforms’ (they are raised boxes, aren’t they?) have the potential to build conversations, and bring communities closer. There are some 40,000 Little Free libraries, to date, according to the website’s FAQs.

Starting one is as simple. Owners are asked to register one’s Library making it searchable online. Borrowers are urged to contribute a book for every book borrowed.

Some young people have launched their LFLs with aplomb, having constructed it out of scrap wood or from an old bookshelf. I could see this trend become almost a hobby, as young readers discover that there is more than one way to enjoy a good book.

  • If you like the idea, follow Little Free Library on Twitter @LtlFreeLibrary

Community as fire pit?

So what’s your definition of a community?

Members of your Facebok fan page? Those hundred-something peeps who follow you on Twitter? How about the ex colleagues of a former workplace in a large, unwieldly Google Group?  You probably have a stake in all or most of these right?

Building a community is one part of the equation. Nurturing one –being the ‘community organizer’ — is something else.  My latest column in CW, the magazine of IABC talks of some easy ways to build an online community.

I think we often get distracted by the word media, and pay lip service to the word social. My definition of a community is a fire pit. It can be small, it is noisy, always generates some sparks, but it draws people together.