Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2014/ Little Libraries

Little Libraries

So the main branch of the Kitchener Public Library is closed for a couple of months. In the meantime the library has set up a temporary branch on King Street, north of Victoria, in an old Tim Hortons. The temporary branch is quite small. I think of it as a "little library".

What surprises me about the little library is that it gets the job done, in the sense that it provides enough reading material to keep me distracted while the main branch is closed. The little library contains several hundred (but probably fewer than a thousand) books, but even if the library never rotated its stock I might not be able to read every book in the building for half a decade, and I probably would find enough that I was willing to read voluntarily for a couple of years.

The selection of books is relatively small. Most of the books are newer, more popular titles. There is little point in going to the little library seeking a particular title, because the little library probably does not have it in stock. But if the goal is to find something of interest then it probably succeeds.

Most little libraries are different than this one; they have older books, and because they are little and poor, they cannot afford to rotate stock very often. But even these libraries are worthwhile, in my mind.

I doubt that little libraries are sufficient sources of information. I like large libraries with big book stacks, where I can hope to find older or more obscure titles. Nonetheless, I feel that even little libraries have something valuable to offer communities. They are destinations. They make seeking out reading material more precious than typing in a Google search.

I worry that little libraries are an endangered species. E-books are the new thing, which make vast catalogues of content available to their subscribers, including most or all of the books available at the little KPL. But as long as the library system is willing to accomodate dinosaurs like me, I will continue to appreciate (and hopefully make use of) our public library system, whether it is large or small. I have depended on library books for my entire life, and even when I have withered into a crusty old libertarian, I hope I will maintain a soft spot for little libraries in my heart.

(EDIT: I had known that "Little Libraries" were a different thing -- individual birdhouse-things people leave outside their houses, full of books for people to borrow and return -- but I did not think of that term when originally composing this entry. Sorry. Actual little libraries are pretty cool too.)