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Photo: CNN
Garbage collectors in Ankara, Turkey, created a library from abandoned books.

This story seems to go with the one about the homeless man in South Africa who sells used books to passersby. The books in the CNN article, however, are not only used — they have been thrown in the trash or abandoned.

Garbage collectors in Ankara thought it was a shame that so many salvageable books should be landfilled when there are people who would appreciate access to them.

Here’s the report from Spencer Feingold and Hande Atay Alamat.

“Garbage collectors in the Turkish capital have opened a public library composed entirely of books once destined for the landfills. The library, located in the Çankaya district of Ankara, was founded after sanitation workers started collecting discarded books.

As word of the collection spread, residents also began donating books directly.

“Initially, the books were only for employees and their families to borrow. But as the collection grew and interest spread throughout the community, the library was eventually opened to the public in September of last year.

” ‘We started to discuss the idea of creating a library from these books. And when everyone supported it, this project happened,’ said Çankaya Mayor Alper Tasdelen, whose local government oversaw the opening of the library.

“Today, the library has over 6,000 books ranging from literature to nonfiction. There is also a popular kid’s section with comic books and an entire section for scientific research. Books in English and French are also available for bilingual visitors.

“The library is housed in a previously vacant brick factory at the sanitation department headquarters. With an aged brick façade and long corridors, the space was ideal for a library. …

” ‘On one hand, there were those who were leaving these books on the streets. On the other hand others were looking for these books,’ Tasdelen said.

“The collection grew so large the library now loans the salvaged books to schools, educational programs, and even prisons.

” ‘Village schoolteachers from all over Turkey are requesting books,’ Tasdelen said. The city government also hired a full-time employee to manage the library. …

“The library is especially popular with cyclists who bike in the nearby valley and break for a quick read and cup of tea.” More here.

You know what I love best about this? It shows how a good idea attracts people of good will as fast as honey attracts flies.

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Photo: Getty
Auckland Libraries in New Zealand figured out why their books were going missing and came up with a win-win solution.

If you know how to read, you want to read, and librarians want you to read. But not everyone has easy access to books. That is why some readers in New Zealand were sneaking books.

Mark Molloy writes at the UK’s Telegraph, “A New Zealand library has finally solved the mystery of why some books were going missing from its shelves.

“Auckland Libraries staff were bewildered after finding some books were being hidden in random places. They initially thought kids playing pranks were to blame, but later discovered it was the city’s rough sleepers who were actually stashing the books so they could return the next day to continue reading.

“ ‘A lot of our street community were wanting to put them underneath the couches or underneath book shelves and kind of hiding them in various places,’ librarian Sean Taylor told TV NZ. … Without a permanent address they were unable to sign up for a library card that would allow them to take the literature away.

“As a solution, Auckland Library created a new section where books can now be left overnight and picked back up again the next morning. …

“ ‘They are really well read. We’ve got a guy who I’ve had a discussion about the meanings of words and we’ll talk about the reference section and it’s the kind of intellectual conversation you’d expect from an academic.’ …

“Auckland Library says it sees itself as a ‘home for the homeless’ and holds regular cinema screenings and a book club for those sleeping rough. …

“ ‘One guy told me he moved to the city several years ago, and that none of his family back home knew he was homeless,” [said Rachel Rivera, manager of Auckland Libraries]. He used our computers to keep in touch with them. It was his lifeline to his family,’ she said.

“ ‘They value our service, like many of our communities do, for different reasons. But they don’t always feel safe and welcome, and that is something we can and should take steps to address.’ ”

More at the Telegraph, here. And look: Everything at the Auckland libraries website is in both English and Maori.

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Photo: Walter Siegmund
Storm Reyes, who grew up in an impoverished Native American community, says her life was transformed by a bookmobile. The first book she chose was about volcanoes because the previous night she’d heard a scary story about Mt. Rainier erupting.

Maria Popova has a wonderful blog that she often links to on twitter, which is where I picked up her heartwarming story about what access to books can mean in a poor child’s life.

From Brainpickings: “A beautiful testament to that emancipating, transformative power of public libraries comes from one such troubled little girl named Storm Reyes, who grew up in an impoverished Native American community, had her life profoundly changed, perhaps even saved, by a library bookmobile, and went on to become a librarian herself. She tells her story in this wonderful oral history animation by StoryCorps:

“The piece was adapted into an essay in Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work

“Here is Reyes’s story, as it appears in the book:

Working and living in migrant farmworkers’ fields, the conditions were pretty terrible. My parents were alcoholics, and I was beaten and abused and neglected. I learned to fight with a knife long before I learned how to ride a bicycle.

When you are grinding day after day after day, there’s nothing to aspire to except filling your hungry belly. You may walk down the street and see a row of nice, clean houses, but you never, ever dream you can live in one. You don’t dream. You don’t hope.

When I was twelve, a bookmobile came to the fields. I thought it was the Baptists, because they used to come in a van and give us blankets and food. So I went over and peeked in, and it was filled with books. …

The night before, an elder had told us a story about the day that Mount Rainier blew up and the devastation from the volcano. So I told the bookmobile person that I was nervous about the mountain blowing up, and he said, ‘You know, the more you know about something, the less you will fear it.’

At Brainpickings, you can find out what happened next, here.

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Photo: Leila Navidi/Star Tribune
Kate Coleman, outreach coordinator at the Minneapolis Central Library, met with Byron Brooks about his housing issues.

Ever since the Ferguson, Missouri, library created a safe zone for residents during the 2014 riots, my eyes have been opened to the range of services that contemporary libraries offer the public.

In Minneapolis, for example, one library branch has a social worker who focuses on helping homeless patrons find resources.

Haley Hansen at the Star Tribune reports, “Kate Coleman worked with nearly 500 homeless people at Minneapolis Central Library last year … as part of a yearslong effort by the Hennepin County Library system to better help the homeless connect with tools and resources in the area. …

“Coleman’s position allows the library to be more than just a basic reference point for help. She said the full-time role fits in with the library’s overall mission of connecting all parts of the community with help and information. …

“Coleman works for St. Stephen’s Human Services, a nonprofit whose mission is to end homelessness. Her position is funded by Hennepin County’s human services and public health department and the Downtown Council. …

” ‘I think the library allows people to feel human and to just feel like they can comfortably be themselves when they’re here,’ she said. … ‘It’s my job to always keep up with what’s available and stay connected with those other community service providers.’ …

“Coleman asks [clients] about income, disability diagnoses and the length of time they’ve been homeless to help connect them with the services that best fit their needs.”

I suspect that people who are down on their luck may also be treated more courteously at libraries than at overwhelmed social service agencies. I hope the libraries never get overwhelmed.

More at the Star Tribune, here.

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Photo: Jason Koxvold

Question: What is halfway between the book-sharing Little Free Libraries that are sweeping the country and your town library? Answer: A personal library set apart from your home in a tiny house.

The Today show interviewed an artist whose friends helped him build one, perhaps also securing themselves a place to stay as a guest.

Christina Poletto reports, “In New York’s Ulster County, at the base of the Catskills Mountains, Jason Koxvold’s woodland home has a new addition to the property that is nothing short of stunning. There, tucked among the property’s forest of oak trees, sits a tiny one-room library which holds 2,500 books.

“Koxvold, a British artist based in New York, owns the property and was inspired to carve out a space specifically for solitude and escape. ‘I work from this location and was looking to make a quiet space for writing and reflection,’ Koxvold told TODAY.

“When there’s an overflow of visiting guests, the forest library also serves as an additional bedroom. …

“Koxvold desired a simple, singular structure that he could construct on his own using red oak from the property.

“Using already-felled trees left over from the construction of the main house, cut trees were planed on site into large log sections measuring 8 x 8 feet. After air drying the 12,000 lbs of milled red oak for several seasons, they became the shelving and cubbies that make up the the library’s interior.

“Koxvold was able to complete this structure with the help of eight different friends over the course of a year.

“While the monolithic shape and black exterior is shocking against the natural forest forms, the interior, heated by a single small wood stove, is as warm as it is cozy. A lone picture window looking into the forest is a source of natural light. …

“If you’re lucky enough to be invited as a guest, you’re welcome to leave a private message in one of the books on the shelves.” More.

Nice idea about leaving notes. In Suzanne and Erik’s Harlem apartment, an entire wall was available for written messages. Guests loved it.

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An African writer’s gratitude to a generous book lover in his childhood city has inspired an online bookstore geared toward African authors.

Daniel A. Gross writes at the New Yorker, “Magunga Williams grew up in Kisumu, a Kenyan city that’s home to more than three hundred thousand people but to only two major bookstores. There, Williams told me recently, ‘people depend on books that they find in supermarkets.’ Most of these books come from the United States and Europe. ‘These supermarkets do not have a rich African collection,’ Williams said.

“But there was one place where he could always find a wider range of books. It was the personal collection of a local man, whose house became a neighborhood meeting place and an unofficial sort of public library. …

“Williams moved to Nairobi and began an undergraduate program in law, but he never forgot the way that a house full of books, in a city with too few, became an escape. …

“So Williams, while he was in school, started a literary blog, Magunga.com, and … he made it his mission to create a space like that library—not in a house but on the Internet. The result is a fledgling online pan-African bookshop: the Magunga Bookstore.

“In becoming a bookseller, Williams was, in part, following in the footsteps of his girlfriend, Abigail Arunga. A few years ago, Arunga, a Nairobi-based freelance writer in her late twenties, stopped by a few local bookstores and asked if they would stock ‘Akello,’ her self-published collection of poems.

“At one shop, she was told that Kenyans don’t read poetry. At another, an employee claimed that her ninety-three-page book was too short. ‘They told me that my book had to be at least a hundred pages,’ she said. So she decided to sell the book herself — at poetry readings, literary festivals, even family gatherings. …

“An epiphany came last winter, when Williams was reading an article in the Guardian and noticed that the newspaper operates its own online bookstore. He told Arunga that they were going to open a bookstore, too. …

“Williams earns his living by writing sponsored posts on his blog, which attracts around five thousand readers each day. He asked his Webmaster, David Mabiria, to add a new tab to the Web site, which would offer books for sale. … He and Arunga requested book donations from writer friends, who provided copies of their own work. They launched the feature with ten titles in stock, under a simple slogan: ‘Spreading the Word.’

“Word spread slowly. The Magunga Bookstore made its first sale in December, 2015, when Williams was out of town — he had to ask a friend to deliver the book. ‘He was telling me he was in traffic,’ Williams recalled. ‘And I was, like, “I don’t care. Just go get a boda-boda ride.“ ‘ (Boda-boda is East African slang for a motorcycle taxi.) He remembers telling the friend, “I’ll pay you even if it costs me double the price. Just to make sure the client is happy.” ‘ ”

More at the New Yorker. And while you’re clicking, take a look at the Magunga Bookstore site, here.

Photo: Facebook/Babishai Niwe Poetry
Abigail Arunga and Magunga Williams at the 2016 Babishai Poetry Festival, in Ntinda, Uganda.

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Photo: Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan
Halifax firm Fowler Bauld & Mitchell won a Governor General’s Medal in Architecture for its work on the Halifax Central Library.

Sandy and Pat drove up to Nova Scotia from Rhode Island this year, a trip that had been on their bucket list for some time. I loved hearing their blow-by-blow account when they returned and, among other things, their enthusiasm for the Halifax Central Library, where returned books reshelve themselves with little-to-no human assistance.

I Googled around to see what I could find about the library.

CBCNews reported, “The team behind one of Halifax’s architectural diamonds has won a crown jewel of an award. Fowler Bauld & Mitchell, the Halifax-based firm that designed the Halifax Central Library, was one of 12 recipients announced Thursday of the Governor General’s Medals in Architecture. …

“Halifax’s library was lauded by jury members as an ‘inviting, light and playful public space.’

” ‘This outstanding new civic building is a community gathering place that responds to the diversity of its users, accommodating many more activities than the traditional library,’ the jury wrote.

” ‘The jury commends the process of early user engagement that led to the design, and the public’s embrace of the building is a testament to its value.’

“The library has been a resounding success since the day it opened, with visitor numbers far exceeding expectations. A big reason for its success was in the design process, which relied heavily on community consultation and inclusion, said [George Cotaras, the architect of record for the project]. …

“The proof that people’s opinions mattered and were considered showed on the day the library opened, said Cotaras.

” ‘They knew what it was going to be like but they had never been able to see inside and when they came in they went, “Wow,” and people were going around saying “Wow, that was my idea. I suggested that.” ‘ ” More.

Can’t help thinking that community involvement would be a good idea for every area of public life.

Photo: Anjuli Patil/CBC
A view from the second floor of the new library.

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