The Little Free Libraries Project Comes to Syracuse

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the official blog of the Syracuse University School of Information Studies, on October 20, 2011. By Topher Lawton.


I arrived at the Warehouse this weekend not knowing quite what to expect; I was looking forward to a day of conversation and preparing to create Little Free Libraries in Syracuse’s Near West Side. My head is still buzzing with ideas, hopes and designs for the project. The Syracuse Little Free Library Project is a collaboration between the School of Information Studies, the College of Visual & Performing Arts, and the Near West Side Initiative. As part of the interdisciplinary team on the project, I’m excited to be working with people outside of the iSchool, and those inside it too!

9:45 am: Arrive bright-eyed & bushy-tailed (get coffee), meet the other participants as they’re coming in (drink coffee, get more) and get settled in (with coffee).

10:00 am: Greeted by the facilitators (Jaime Snyder, Zeke Leonard, Maarten Jacobs and Jill Hurst-Wahl), we get right to work. After a quick introduction to the concepts behind the Little Free Library Project, and the Syracuse incarnation in particular, we break into smaller groups and start discussions. It’s important to note that every one of the groups included community members, design students from VPA, and iSchool students as well–we kept changing groups around throughout the day. Every facet of the project was represented in every group, every time, throughout the day. The collaboration between members of such different backgrounds was great to see and take part in! We problem-solved as one unit, and could often make up for weaknesses in ways that single discipline teams couldn’t have managed.

Our first topic of conversation was books–classic library material, right? Interestingly, we didn’t start trying to organize them or figure out what books to recommend, but instead the conversations focused on ways that books had affected us. Many of us brought examples of “desert island” books (ones we’d never want to be marooned without) and those helped to spark memories of other books we’d all loved. In my section, people spoke again and again about old favorites or even books to “fight with” because of characters or situations that challenged our perspective.

Free Little Libraries – Syracuse, NY from Kyle Kuchta on Vimeo.

12:00 pm: Lunch and more brainstorming! This time, the topic was location; we discussed spaces that would make perfect homes for these potential Little Free Libraries. I was surprised to see how similar the “perfect locations” tended to be. Most people agreed that they should be placed in highly-visible locations with plenty of traffic, areas to sit and read, and where you could join neighbors and friends in sharing the books you love. We still have some questions to answer, but we’ve found plenty of common ground for now.

1:00 pm: At this point, we split into small groups and started to work on the next step: the design process! Our interdisciplinary teams came up with some fantastic ideas, and once again we discovered that we had more in common than we thought. We considered colors, materials, shapes, sizes, dimensions, and talked some more about what these Little Libraries might hold (Books? Magazines? Games?). The design team from VPA had plenty of supplies on hand, and each group was able to create a map of their ideas and designs for possible prototypes.

2:30 pm: We reconvened as a large group for the last time to reflect on the day’s work and talk about the next steps. Librarians are armed and ready to consider the collections to “seed” these libraries, designers have the prototypes to make, and residents are hard at work deciding where these libraries should be hosted. The day was deemed a great success, and we left excited for more!

We’ll be meeting together once all of the “homework” is done, so check back to Information Space for more updates on the Syracuse Little Free Library Project.

Do you have any ideas to share about Little Free Libraries? Let us know in the comments!

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