My community street library has been operating successfully for around 3 months now. Here’s what I’ve learned about how to make them work.
1.Consider your motivation and how large you want the library to be.
I started my library, partly to share books I thought were excellent, but didn’t want to keep just sitting on my shelf, and partly as a way to recycle our many children’s books which are no longer needed.
I didn’t give size much thought. I had a friend who liked building in wood, but you can order a wide range of ready-made ones. Mine is quite small (holds about 15 books) and doesn’t really take large (A4 type) books, which children’s books often are. Mine only has one shelf. I’d chose a larger one if I did it again, for flexibility, possibly even with two shelves.
2. Start the library with your own books.
You will certainly have many books around that you don’t really need, so that’s a very good place to start. But be prepared for them to disappear, never seen again. This is not a ‘return’ library necessarily!
3. People seem to like light entertainment adult books more than good literature or reality.
Many of my books failed to move! Award-winning authors such as Christos Tsialkos and Bryce Courtenay, biographies, business books and my own authored books didn’t move. Children’s books weren’t replaced (a size issue?).
4. The library needs to be monitored for slow movers.
Each day I look at the selection and it changes every day, though I never observe anyone taking or depositing books! I estimate the books change over completely (including my removals) within 2-3 weeks. But, in a small library, slow movers clog the shelf and limit attractiveness. So I remove slow movers back inside and replace them with others. I want people to see significant new selections on offer each week.
5. Rotating books between street libraries seems to work.
I’ve found three other street libraries close by. Now, I take my slow movers to them and take what I think my library users will like. It seems to work both ways, as I find my books gone from the other libraries when next I visit.
6. I find few books I want to read personally!
It wasn’t my purpose to find new books for myself…and I haven’t! I’ve tried a few and read a couple. I’m excited when I do find one I like, but I’m more excited that the library seems to be genuinely serving a community need.
Apart from the small physical size and the ego hurt that people don’t like my choices of books, my only regret is I never hear from anyone that they like it, or chat with anyone about the books they’ve chosen. But the turnover makes it clear that there is a regular clientele. Books come and go. That makes me happy.