Street Books

I recently did an interview with Street Books librarian Laura Moulton, who runs a free bike-powered library for people who live outside.

Good news update:  the original project was funded by a Regional Arts and Culture Council grant, but Laura just announced that it will live on past the term of the grant, which was due to end in early September.  Based on the enthusiastic response she’s gotten, from both patrons and donors, this is an idea whose time has come.  There’s someone in Seattle interested in starting a Street Books library there, and who knows where else?

You can read the full interview here.

Once I had a kid who’d torn it up a little because it was his 21st birthday, and he told me so.  He was pretty swaggery and belligerent.  I asked him what he liked and he said Che Guevara.  The next week he came back and asked for that, not really even looking at me.  I said yes, here it is, and it blew his mind.  I saw him again and waved to him when I was biking home on Saturday, and he waved back.  It’s a pretty cool thing.


laura moulton with the street books cart


Pop-up library in Mexico

My good friend Juanita Benedicto, librarian extraordinaire, has been living in Mexico for the last year or two, working remotely and helping out at a convent, orphanage, and women’s shelter.  She blogs about life in Mexico from time to time, and today’s post was pretty amazing and inspiring.

Once a week, a young couple—he is sitting on the bench, she’s on the curb and they’re both reading to a child—fills a suitcase full of books and  rolls it out to the plaza in Mexiamora. They set the books out and children come to read the books, some with their parents. In a Country where wages are low and book prices are high, books are a luxury. Especially children’s books. I think it’s incredibly forward-thinking for this couple to create their own book mobile and dedicate an afternoon every week to give their neighbors the satisfaction of reading and being read to.

The plazas that fill Guanajuato unite neighbors and create friends. Every evening, this one is filled with people sitting and talking, kids playing, and sometimes, impromptu dog parks….How wonderful that these spaces can become homes to portable libraries as well.

Photo credit (Original photo is at Juanita’s blog.)

Juanita also coordinates donations to help build library donations for the convent, Buen Pastor.  If you’re interested in sending money or Spanish children’s books her way to help out, you can find out more here.

An article, a pop-up cart…Friday updates.

Things have been busy here lately–it’s the second week of our quarter, and we’ve spent it in the usual fall rough-and-tumble.  But in the midst of it all, two projects have come to fruition, or near-fruition.

First, the newest issue of Communications in Information Literacy has an article I co-authored with the fantastic Merinda McLure, at Colorado State University.  Thanks to Chris Hollister and Stewart Brower for all their help in shepherding this piece through–and to our anonymous peer reviewers for their comments.  It’s a study of student and faculty attitudes toward library integration in CMS systems, started back in 2008 when I was still at Berkeley.  It was fascinating to research and write, and the finished product was bigger than either of us had predicted, I think.  So, double thanks to Chris and Stewart for taking it on.

On an entirely different front, our pop-up library project has been chugging along, and we now have some pictures of the cart.

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It’s essentially an IKEA-hacked book truck, designed to be reconfigured in different ways to display large and small books, new issues of journals, posters, inspiration images (these ranked high with the students we interviewed), DVDs, even a laptop ready to show Zotero or a DVD.  The last two weeks have been too nutty to get it into the students’ space yet, but I’m hoping next week we’ll get the chance to try it out.

All props to awesome MLIS student Jennifer Keyser for all her work on the in-depth user interviews we did to zero in on the best functions for the cart, as well as other library services.

Bookmobile/mobilivre/pop-up library part III

Another quick post to keep track of some new inspirations for the pop-up library project…

Unshelved’s “Pimp My Bookcart” is whimsical, not always practical, but full of great ideas and just-jump-in enthusiasm.

Via Annalemma, the Chicago Public Library, and Gabriel Levinson, the Bookbike.  Which is just terrific (and has great inspiration for strong graphic visual design around the cart, as well.)

See earlier inspirado for mobile library user services at Part II (which links back to Part I.)

Pop-up library/book cart/bookmobile/mobilivre, part II

A few more precedent images and inspiration for the pop-up library project I’m working on this summer with Jennifer Keyser, MLIS student and intern extraordinaire.  These images are mostly hers, but I thought I’d share so we had them all in one place (and to show what great stuff she found.)

This one’s actually from my wife, whose lifelong ambition it is for me to drive a bookmobile in a small coastal town.  We’ll see, hon.  This is a book cart in a park in Seoul, Korea.  Park visitors choose the book they want, fill our their name and user information in the register, take the book away to read, then return it when they leave the park.  Original link here (scroll down for the image and description.)

I love the big bicycle wheels on this design, and the open shelves, which look like they close up with wooden cabinet covers (which in turn fold up or down, to form a counter…)

Now this is a DIY bookmobile…  Again, bike bouncy bike tires are the way to go–and I like that this one comes with kickstands you can bring down to make the structure stable for a little stay somewhere.  The colors are bright, the whole thing is inviting and approachable.  Jennifer found this one on Design Squish; look here for a few other terrific mobile book-purveying devices.  (Airstream!)

Jennifer found this great example of cool, innovative design using ultra-modern materials.  I love the spirit of experimentation and adventure here.  From Cool Hunting, here.

About these beautiful stools, Jennifer says:

I really like the idea of repurposing materials/objects, but often find the finish project is too thrown together and distracting. I really like these stools –there is something sleek and simple about the design. I came across the stool on the Unconsumption blog (all about reusing items). More about the stools here.

And, from IKEA and The New York Times (by way of some talented furniture hackers), some clever and inspiring repurposing of existing designs.  We’re definitely thinking along the same lines here–Jennifer found this image and sent it to me the same day I was on the delightful IKEA Hacker blog, trolling for ways to reuse trays, shelves, and racks.

And last but not least, Jennifer hand-picked a Nikki McClure image that combines the strong graphic line, beautiful hand-crafted appeal, and overall DIY/PNW vibe of our ideal.  If only we could create something so beautiful!  Maybe a vinyl cut for the side of the cart, or a very talented addition to our poster?

Book cart/food cart/pop-up library precedents

This summer I’m working on outreach projects with Jennifer Keyser, who is an awesome MLIS student and our summer intern in the library.  We’re focusing on the UO’s architecture students here in Portland–our largest user group.  One of our ideas is to bring library services and collections up to the studio spaces (four floors away from us) through a small, mobile cart.  We’re calling it our pop-up library…when we’re not calling it our bookmobile, mobile library, or other stuff.

Right now we’re both looking for good precedents to share, that will get us charged up about the project, make sure we’re on the same page design-wise, and help us describe it to others.  So I’m looking for images of…

  • great, clear, colorful poster design (for a poster and/or flyers to describe the project)
  • food carts, book carts, bookmobiles, and other well-designed DIY mobile devices that combine efficiency with beauty with intentional, streamlined style
  • repurposed book trucks:  are there any stylish ones already out there?
  • ad-hoc service desks that rock

I’ll post what I find here.  If you know of more–and I’m kicking myself right now for all the great library, store, cart, and bike designs I’ve seen over the last year and not held onto–please link in the comments!

For starters, I’m in love with everything on Information is Beautiful.  And the L!brary! Initiative blows my mind.

The World Cup is so predictable, from Wired UK via Information is Beautiful.  Love the color, the clarity.  The image calls you over to look more closely.

Images of NY public school libraries redone by top architects and designers.  Love the sign on the floor, love the energy in the graphics.  Both via the L!brary! Initiative.

Vintage poster for The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton.  From a collection of vintage posters at Design Cubicle.  Again, love the solidity, simplicity, and vividness of the image.  And the color, and the cleverness of the “greaser” comb.

Both from Design Cubicle, same post.  I love the way the multiples are overlaid in the eyelasses poster, and the way they’re organized so neatly in the shoes.  I can imagine book or DVD covers working like this, or some other image that draws the user over and helps explain what the library offers.

From the portfolio of Yaron Schoen, a graphic designer:  Tea Junkie.  Shows the power of a silhouette and some simple text, as well as the effectiveness of a series.  The Barnes & Noble author images we’re all familiar with–the etched-looking portraits of Virginia Woolf and Bernard Shaw–do the same thing.  I can imagine a short series of library posters highlighting parts of the collection…or, say, a silhouette image of an iconic building (maybe even one related to a class currently being taught) with the call number range beneath it.

It’s harder to find good images of mobile precedents–things in three dimensions, things with moving parts.

A classic bookmobile, or “book truck,” that served Davidson County, NC in the early days.  There’s a great page documenting the history of the county’s book trucks here.  The older trucks have beautiful lines and are made of solid, appealing materials:  wood, rubber, steel, glass.  I like that the books are visible from the outside of the truck, here.  It looks like what it is:  a library on wheels.  Later bookmobiles lose some dignity.

This is insanely ambitious, but while we’re blue-skying, the kinetic architecture of Tom Kundig (and associates) definitely has a look and feel I’d love to see in a project like this.  The materials and scale give the buildings a grave, quiet, handsome quality.  And they really do move.

And of course, because we’re in Portland, we have to take into account the local food cart culture.  This city is rich with old Airstreams and Teardrops repurposed to serve waffles, burritos, and banh mi.  The subtext is: hip, capable, friendly.  Just like the library.  (This is from the Sip guys.)

Last but not least, Portlanders like to bike: another mobile, mechanical technology.  We have a whole culture of hipsters riding fixies (fixed, single-gear bikes), and they speak the same language as the food cart folks.  One of the paramount DIY triumphs of the Schwinn and Bakfiets crowd is the brewery-on-a-bike.  Hopworks, a local brewery, has outfitted a bike with kegs.  All it takes to set up a beer garden is curb and a kickstand.

If they can do that, surely we can make a great-looking book cart into a mobile branch library.

Original image (and more like it) here.

Whoops, lull.

Things have been busy, what can I say.  Every academic knows how the middle-to-end of term starts to compress, accordian-like, until by the last week (which happens to be this one) there’s hardly room to breathe, let alone think about the wider world.

Still, I came across this piece via the great ArchNewsNow newsletter (architectural news of note delivered to your inbox daily, for free), and wanted to share it.

New Libraries Revitalize Cities

A mixed-use, multimedia complex that is meant to foster social interaction and creative ferment as much as reading and research, the library of the future is also intended as an engine of city-center rejuvenation.

The article discusses libraries like the Rem Koolhaus-designed Seattle Public Library, which is grandiose and visionary, and which lives in an already-thriving downtown center.  It also looks ahead to how libraries can be designed as additions to failing neighborhoods, not just as book warehouses but as places where you can “use a research database and take a swim, say, or to find a good read and buy a pair of socks.”  Basically, libraries can be meaningfully integrated with other public / commercial centers, from the ground up.

What might that look like?  Here’s an architects’ drawing of a library planned for Aarhus, Denmark:

Architects' rendering of library planned for Aarhus, Denmark

I like the kayak.

This also makes me think of the Vancouver Public Library’s Central Branch, one of the first places I ever plied my trade, in its mammoth Coliseum-style Moshe Safdie Statement Building, which also included small businesses in the adjoining rental spaces.  If you worked at the library you could go downstairs, through the atrium, and get a slice of pizza or some noodles at the little restaurants there, or buy a magazine at the newsstand.  If you could make your way through the traditional cultural dance performances happening in between.

Vancouver Public Library, Central Branch

Obviously there’s a lot that goes into making a major New Building happen, and still more into making it a truly functional and integrated part of a working or non-working neighborhood.  But I like knowing that architects and planners are thinking about libraries as hubs, not just for borrowing books but for anchoring neighborhoods.  I think that’s pretty cool.