Where You Are Is Where This Library Goes
May 27, 2013 11:08 AM   Subscribe

The folks at Mellow Pages, a community-run library/salon in Brooklyn (recently profiled in the NYT), have put together a how-to guide for building a similar kind of space in your neighborhood: short version here, long version (and Google Doc) here.
posted by Cash4Lead (12 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
There's a place like this in my neighborhood. It's called a public library.
posted by gimonca at 11:18 AM on May 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ahh snark and completely missing the point. Don't ever change, Metafilter.
posted by Inkoate at 11:33 AM on May 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


Lets just go ahead and add Brooklyn to the list along with circumcision, cat declawing and conceptual art.
posted by nathancaswell at 12:38 PM on May 27, 2013


Seriously, change "Brooklyn" to "Topeka" and who would possibly have an issue with this?
posted by nathancaswell at 12:39 PM on May 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seriously, change "Brooklyn" to "Topeka" and who would possibly have an issue with this?

Hipstercritical bastards?
posted by phaedon at 12:55 PM on May 27, 2013


This is fascinating, thank you for posting.

One of the things that I've been thinking about more often is:

As public institutions crumble/are defunded/are actively destroyed/sold off for 'profit,' how can small local communities replace them, or rather, replace their functionality?

This is one of those ways.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:22 PM on May 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ahh snark and completely missing the point. Don't ever change, Metafilter.

I think it's somewhat justified in this instance. I am completely coloured by being a librarian, but this whole thing really reads like they didn't want to go ask their local library to acquire some new books.

We're facing a lot of battles right now at every level in privacy, funding, copyright, publisher relations to try and keep libraries in existence. Community spaces are vital yes, but they are not the same as sustainable, open public institutions, IMHO.
posted by wingless_angel at 1:31 PM on May 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


Interesting concept, thanks for finding and sharing.

I like the idea of a salon, as it combines food and conversation along with books. Some libraries have cafes, and a number of bookstores do, but they're very much separate from the book areas, and seem designed to encourage community. The world needs more third places.
posted by booksherpa at 1:32 PM on May 27, 2013


Ahh snark and completely missing the point.

Speak for yourself. There's nothing these privileged young people are doing that can't be done at my local library, at least, and the people who work there are civil servants who are unionized, make something like a decent wage (although they deserve more), and work for public officials who have to face re-election at times. And I can tick off, one by one, how they actually accomplish all the things that these guys want to do as a lark.

I'm also aware that the situation with neighborhood libraries will vary--a lot--from place to place, but at least where I live, the concept being described in the article is just staggeringly naive.

As public institutions crumble/are defunded/are actively destroyed/sold off for 'profit,' how can small local communities replace them, or rather, replace their functionality?

I'd be concerned about these events happening in a different order: a cash-strapped or ideologically hostile local government could point to these hobby efforts as an excuse to slash funding.
posted by gimonca at 1:44 PM on May 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


I am completely coloured by being a librarian, but this whole thing really reads like they didn't want to go ask their local library to acquire some new books.
--
I'm also aware that the situation with neighborhood libraries will vary--a lot--from place to place, but at least where I live, the concept being described in the article is just staggeringly naive.


I live in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, a stones' throw from these guys. I can attest that there is a good response to both of your complaints:
this whole thing really reads like they didn't want to go ask their local library to acquire some new books.
The libraries in this particular neighborhood are infrequently open and have sparse collections. Forget about anything "new" - even the classics are mostly all checked out because of neighborhood kids with book reports. You're left with little else but a squillion Dan Brown books and some books on dieting. Pickings are even more slim if you're looking for something in a language other than English.
the situation with neighborhood libraries will vary--a lot--from place to place, but at least where I live, the concept being described in the article is just staggeringly naive.
I have pretty much described the situation in their neighborhood libraries insofar as collections go. As for hours - most are only open from 10 am to 6 pm on weekdays, and often even closed on weekends.

I love libraries; I wish there were more of them. But there are definitely communities where library access is really, really sparse. And this is indeed one of them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:29 PM on May 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Interesting post indeed! Part of me thinks what they're doing sounds really cool. Instead of assembling a collection of the stuff they're interested in and keeping it to themselves, they're making it open to the public and encouraging others to donate similar types of items. They're the classic special library. This is, in a way, how the Library of Congress started - Jefferson offered his personal collection after the original library was destroyed. It just so happens that his collection was enormous and eclectic. Theirs is pretty specialist, and they're building on a lot of goodwill and harnessing cheap/free resources.

As libraries grow and have bigger collections, they need more money to keep acquiring new things and employ staff and provide better working conditions and provide ways of people searching for a specific item, finding a specific item which means you have to describe your item accurately and hopefully put it with other, similar items otherwise no one can ever find anything. If people don't return the items they've borrowed, who spends the time to chase them up and get them to return, or replace the book that they spilled coffee on, or that their cat/baby/dog chewed to shreds?

And do the library founders decide they actually want to do something else with their spare time besides sit around hanging out in case people want to use their library? Possibly they should be paid for their time, and anyone contributing should be as well. So where does the money come from?

And then they may wind up with too many books for their space, so what do they do? Do they put all of the zines by one particular author into a box and put the box on the shelf so it takes up less room? Do they store the things that people don't seem to be as interested in elsewhere? Do they get rid of things? Do they stop acquiring new items for the collection so that their library becomes a museum? Or do they just chuck out the old things, or have fundraising sales for people to buy back the books they donated?

Anyway, it sounds like the kind of thing that can only really work as long as it stays small, has a specific niche that it occupies, preferably one with a dedicated audience that is technologically well-connected, and that operates on good will and volunteerism rather than, you know, money. Which is, indeed, a solution. If it fills a niche or meets needs that the local library can't, I think it's a great idea.

Existing libraries have a lot of constraints and can't always accommodate everything people would like. But a lot of libraries and librarians are trying really hard to prove that they are relevant, worthy and meaningful places, that they do meaningful work and should be paid for it, that they do still need money to develop their collections and that they do offer many programs and services that people would not be able to get otherwise (including, for many, their only source of internet access). And part of me wonders if the people interested in setting up community-run libraries would be better off trying to contribute to their existing libraries, to help shape and change their existing libraries in sustainable ways, before they find those libraries closed down and all the extras that the libraries currently provide gone.
posted by Athanassiel at 1:00 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, and one last thing: Jefferson didn't donate his collection. Congress bought his 6,487 books for $23,950 in 1815, which in today's money would be $359,344.27 ($55 per book). And that's just the books. Libraries cost money, whether it comes as a lump from Congress or from the money library members paid to buy the books. Just sayin'.
posted by Athanassiel at 1:11 AM on May 28, 2013


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