Great Library Ideas: Experience Bags

Experience Bags
I thought this idea from Laurel County Library was pretty clever, and unlike some of the other Great Library Ideas I’ve mentioned here, also cheap for a library to implement. Laurel County’s Experience Bags are curated collections of books and other media, selected according to a particular theme like “Weekend with the Undead” or “Going Back in Time: The Roaring Twenties.” There are more details available on the library’s blog.

Great Library Ideas: The Library Minecraft Club

Minecraft headSchool Library Journal has an interesting article on school libraries running Minecraft servers for student clubs. And given the number of people I’ve seen playing Minecraft at the public library with their meager one hour allotment of computer time, I imagine this could easily be ported to public libraries as well.

I’ll fully admit that I’ve been skeptical of the educational merit of computer games on the whole, but Minecraft actually has some neat things going for it, in case you need to persuade a recalcitrant administrator. Just getting one’s head around Redstone Circuits alone provides a basic foundation for logic, electronics, computer programming, and, OMG, Boolean operators.

C’mon, librarians, if you can’t sell the higher ups on Boolean operators, hang up your MLIS, dust off your resumé, and find a new career. Besides, you know, you can make the kids check out some books and shit when they come to use your computers.

Great Library Ideas: The Artist-Curated Book Display

Colorful PaletteI’ve seen some librarians put together awesome displays. Others, well, they’ve seemed a little more aesthetically challenged. I totally understand: librarians wear a lot of hats, and sometimes, the jaunty beret of the artist is just not one of them.

So, instead, why not reach out to local artists and get them to do displays for you? Win-win, you get an attractive display, and they level up on local notability. The Portsmouth Public Library in New Hampshire has been all over this, not only getting artists to do displays, but displaying their art in the library, doing public talks, the works. Awesome.

(Photo: Eric May)

Great Library Ideas: The Seed Library

Planting Fall PeasSo I’ve been an apartment dweller for most of my adult life—the reckless pursuit of advanced degrees can pretty much guarantee such a living arrangement well into your thirties—but I’ve long dreamed of having a garden of heirloom vegetables. So much so that I even went to a seminar on seed saving once, even though I didn’t have a stitch of ground in which to plant them.

All of which is just background to explain why I find this idea at the Basalt Public Library in Colorado so awesome (and others who have recently jumped in the seed-saving fray).

Now, I’m not terribly keen on how NPR spun the Basalt story, as if public libraries are in need of “saving” from anything other than over-privileged and short-sighted bureaucrats, or as if saving seeds is going to ever justify to taxpayers the public investment, but still: great idea. If public libraries can help improve food security, assist people with learning some DIY skills, and encourage communities to share, that’s fairly awesome, even apart from the rhetoric.

(Photo: Chiot’s Run)

Cory Doctorow on “Libraries, Hackspaces and E-waste”

In a guest post on the Raincoast Books blog, Cory Doctorow writes persuasively about the role public libraries can (and do) play in encouraging information and technological literacy, and how this overlaps with the hackspace movement:

People who say that it’s dumb to turn libraries into book-lined Internet cafes are right … Damn right libraries shouldn’t be book-lined Internet cafes. They should be book-lined, computer-filled information-dojos where communities come together to teach each other black-belt information literacy, where initiates work alongside noviates to show them how to master the tools of the networked age from the bare metal up.

Libraries could do far worse advocate than having Cory Doctorow for an advocate. Read the rest of the article on

(Photo: Jonathan Worth)