Little Free Libraries – urban decoration for affluent areas?

Here’s an interesting looking study published by the Journal of Radical Librarianship. I tend to have no time for librarians who, in relation to LFLs, whine “They’re not really libraries. They’re just book swaps!”. That, to me, is semantics.

Books is books.

However, this article makes the point that these small book collections don’t appear in neighbourhoods where they could be of most value. In Toronto at least, they tend to be confined to more affluent areas. This is understandable in a way since the structures sold by the company Little Free Libraries are not cheap. People in poorer areas are likely less able to afford them and those who can may be unwilling to set them up too far away from their own homes.

c47d00fa20e2947527a90061eb42398bI don’t really have much knowledge on this topic but during my recent trip to the US (Florida and New Orleans) I saw several little neighbourhood book swaps and they appeared to be situated in all kinds of areas. What’s true of Toronto may not be universally constant.

However, I’ve only glanced at this piece so far and may have more to say once I’ve read it in detail. I’m just posting it for interest right now. Please share your own thoughts in the comments below.

Little Free Libraries®: Interrogating the impact of the branded book exchange
Schmidt and Hale
Journal of Radical Librarianship, Vol. 3 (2017) pp.14–41. Published 19 April 2017
ABSTRACT: In this article, we critique the phenomenon of Little Free Libraries® (LFL®), the non-profit organization dedicated to sharing books with one’s neighbours. Through our engagement with the discourses, narratives and geographies of the LFL® movement, we argue that the organization represents the corporatization of literary philanthropy, and is an active participant in the civic crowdfunding activities of the non-profit industrial complex. The visible positioning of these book exchanges, particularly on private property in gentrified urban landscapes, offers a materialization of these neoliberal politics at street level. Drawing primarily upon one of the author’s experiences as an LFL® steward, as well as critical discourse and GIS analysis, we offer constructive critiques of the organization and their mission, and suggest that the principles of community-led library practice can be more effectively employed to harness the enthusiasm of these self-described “literacy warriors”.
Keywords: Little Free Libraries, critical geography, landscape theory, non-profit industrial complex, philanthropy, civic crowdfunding, public libraries

 

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