Little Free Libraries: Playful Anarchy and the New “Public” Library

A Little Free Library is a “take a book, bring a book” free book exchange. The libraries come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common version is a small wooden box, mounted in front of a house, that the individual fills with books. Anyone may take a book or bring a book to share. I examine how little free libraries change our relationship to books that circulate on loan. Public and private lending libraries have clearly articulated conventions that establish a contract between library and borrower. Little Free Libraries, on the other hand, forego a contractual relationship. I interrogate, for example, what it means for a book to be deemed “free” from cataloguing, from membership requirements, from records of circulation, from return. There is a playful anarchy in the world of these libraries. Through interviews with stewards in Takoma Park, Maryland, I analyze both what these sites of exchange mean on a personal level and what they mean on a community level. In this community study, I explore what custodianship means to various stewards—from learning why they choose to stock particular books to interactions they have with those who take books from their libraries.

Libraries Where Life Happens : Nontraditional Settings for Libraries

Libraries are occupying spaces that are no longer dedicated solely as book repositories with stacks, reference services, and story times. Starting with an examination of how libraries are coping with digital and virtual competitors, this article presents two explorations of expansions of the Linebaugh Public Library in Rutherford Country, Tennessee (Murfreesboro) to nontraditional sites. One library is sited in a recreational center with computers in the main room and books in the backroom; the other is a new building located on the grounds of an elementary school that contains no books at all, only e-books with computers throughout. These moves provide a model for initiating such a venture in other public library systems. The role of the librarian in these new spaces is included. The primary investigator will use the history of the library, the minutes of board meetings, interviews with library personnel, study of the spaces, and review of the literature to document the process that led to the changes. Patron observations and interviews will be used to document the use of the facility that is already in place (in the recreational center).

Before and After a Poet's Suicide: The Reception of Sylvia Plath

Few modern authors have been the object of such intense interest as the American poet Sylvia Plath. In critical reception, there is a notable before-and-after division. Before she killed herself, reviewers mainly commented on literary aspects of her work. When the reason for her death became known, her personal story overshadowed the aesthetic evaluation of the two books she saw into print herself, as well as the many posthumous titles published in her name. Sylvia Plath thus demonstrates the relevance of Boris Tomashevsky’s argument in “Literature and Biography” (1923), that it is essential to consider how the biography of a poet operates in readers’ consciousness. The important thing is not the factual life and whether the perception of it is correct, but how the image of an author affects the understanding of her work. Tomashevsky distinguishes between “writers with biographies” and “writers without biographies,” between those who are the subject of anecdotes and biographical stories and those who are unknown to the public or appear as neutral. Poets moving from one category to the other, like Plath did, make for interesting study. Her case also raises a number of ethical questions.