Where conventional libraries fall short, people sharing ingenuity and building community stand tall
Have you ever checked How to Save the World in Your Spare Time? by Elizabeth May out of the library? How about David Graeber’s The Democracy Project, Richard Reynolds’ On Guerrilla Gardening, or The Winter We Danced by the The Kino-nda-niimi Collective? Your answer, if you are reading this in Newfoundland and Labrador, will be no. Unfortunately, no libraries in the province carry any of these books.
Have you ever accompanied a child to a library and read (the illustrated, shortened, children’s version of) Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela? How about Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman, A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara, or The Roots of my Family Tree by Niki Alling? Your answer will be the same as above and for the same reason.
Have you ever been part of a book club that read a book about a community issue important to you? There is a challenge here: everyone in the club has to buy the book. Do you have books full of important ideas just sitting on your bookshelf? Someone in your community could be reading those books. Is there a book full of important ideas that you would like to read but would rather not have to buy? Someone in your community probably has a copy sitting on their book shelf.
The People to People Library (P2PL) is a new community project that gives people in Newfoundland and Labrador power to answer these questions differently. It is based in a simple idea: instead of buying books, borrowing them from institutions or simply not reading, we can and should share our books with each other.
As opposed to a building holding a centralized collection, the P2PL facilitates the sharing of books held by members of our communities. Albert Einstein said, “The only thing you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.” The P2PL knows that the location of the library is anywhere there is someone willing to share a book, and we believe this knowledge should be public.
The P2PL is facilitating book sharing in four ways. First, members create online catalogues of books they are willing to share and other members then search these catalogues, contact book owners online and arrange book sharing. Second, the P2PL organizes book sharing events. People attending these events can bring books to share, borrow books that others bring to the events, or just come to browse books and connect with interesting people and ideas.
Sometimes, instead of organizing events, the P2PL will attend events. Members of the library set up book sharing tables at public events such as farmers’ markets, music festivals, rallies and protests, and public lectures. A fourth approach to book sharing the P2PL supports is the creation of “Take a book, leave a book” spaces. These unattended collections of books in public spaces are open for anyone to take from or add to.
The P2PL was created with the belief that book sharing can be about more than just books. Sharing of all forms can build community. Spreading books can spread important ideas. A free and open library, with a collection curated and supplied by the people who use it, and where sharing is coordinated by the sharers, is a practice in collective action and cooperation. In the words of Ivan Illich, “At its best the library is the prototype of a convivial tool.”
The P2PL has a few rules:
(1) Sharing with and borrowing from the P2PL is free and open to everyone.
(2) Anyone who shares or borrows from the P2PL is a member of the library. Members can: create their own library cards, host book sharing events on their own and post requests for books in our Facebook and librarything.com groups.
(3) Non-members are allowed to do the same things as members.
(4) People sharing books through the library maintain ownership of their books.
(5) Anyone who does not wish to maintain ownership of a book, and instead permanently donate it to the members of the P2PL, simply has to give it to another member of the P2PL with the request that they share it.
(6) All borrowers are requested to be friendly to books. There are no official punishments for being unfriendly to books, but if word gets around, the books might stop befriending you.
(7) Timelines for book sharing are arranged between sharers. Some people might be happy to lend you a book for a year, while others might bring some books to an event and want them back by the end of the event. The P2PL will help book lenders communicate their borrowing timeline preferences to borrowers.
(8) You do not need to be quiet in the P2PL.
(9) The person who shares, borrows or browses the most books wins.
On Wednesday Aug. 6 the People to People Library will be popping up in Bannerman Park in St. John’s! Come to borrow a book for the day, or for longer. Read in the shade of a Bannerman tree. Browse over 100 books full of ideas to make the world a better place. Talk about books with friends or strangers. There will be a children’s section to this pop-up library; families can spend time reading together in the park 🙂 Finally, you are most welcome to bring books to share with others. You can bring books to share for the day (to be read by others in the park), or use the People to People Library to lend out your books for a longer period of time. This event, and the borrowing and sharing of books, is free and open to everyone.
You can learn more about the People to People Library at www.peopletopeoplelibrary.wordpress.com.
Editor’s note: If you would like to respond to this or any article on TheIndependent.ca, or if you would like to address an issue we haven’t yet covered, we welcome letters to the editor and consider each of them for publication in our Letters section. You can email yours to: justin at theindependent dot ca. Not all letters will be printed, but all will be read.