It is a lovely piece of library advocacy that cuts to the heart of the fallacy that these “libraries,” popping up across the countryside, should universally revered, which is tantamount to canon law inside the literacy movement. She concludes:
Do you really just want to share your old books and meet your neighbours? That’s fine – start a book exchange, but please don’t call it a library. Are you a teacher and want to use it as a class project? Fabulous idea, but please ensure advocacy for the public library is part of that learning module. Do you really want to ensure that there is equitable access to reading material and support literacy in your neighbourhood? Maybe your energy is best directed supporting the local public library or grassroots advocacy for universal daycare.
There are many ways to build community – a box of books is one of them, to be sure, but there’s more to the story than appears.
Contrast her words to the mission statement for Reading Town PEI’s little library project:
Reading Town PEI’s Tiny Lending Library legacy project promotes literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges, little houses for books, that are then adopted into communities across PEI. Tiny lending libraries will be adopted into communities from one tip of the Island to the other, each will celebrate reading and promote curbside literacy through community book sharing.
These little community magnets foster a reading culture in whatever neighbourhood they are adopted into. The libraries encourage the development of sharing networks and support universal access to a diversity of literature.
I’ve benefited twice–once when I was about to get on a train in Vermont and once over Christmas when I found a spy thriller in the box pictured below near my in-laws in Napanee–from the presence of Little Free Libraries. And I’ve done what I can to encourage their development here in Charlottetown. But Schmidt makes a strong case for the notion that, by investing efforts in these twee projects, we’re taking our collective eyes off the important ball, which is the nurturing of real public libraries, the continued existence of which is always in some doubt.