In this article, we critique the phenomenon of Little Free Libraries® (LFL®), the non-profit organization dedicated to sharing books with one’s neighbours. Through our engagement with the discourses, narratives and geographies of the LFL® movement, we argue that the organization represents the corporatization of literary philanthropy, and is an active participant in the civic crowdfunding activities of the non-profit industrial complex. The visible positioning of these book exchanges, particularly on private property in gentrified urban landscapes, offers a materialization of these neoliberal politics at street level. Drawing primarily upon one of the author’s experiences as an LFL® steward, as well as critical discourse and GIS analysis, we offer constructive critiques of the organization and their mission, and suggest that the principles of community-led library practice can be more effectively employed to harness the enthusiasm of these self-described “literacy warriors.”
Quietly, incrementally, I’ve been sharing things I wrote over the last few years – the experimental outtakes of my first attempt at writing about landscape, an entirely serious paper on records management in sci-fi, the thesis I didn’t want to acknowledge for the better part of two years. I’m happy to be releasing things on my own terms. My first! peer-reviewed! article! is coming out soon in the (open access!) Journal of Radical Librarianship, co-authored with the hyperbrilliant Jane Schmidt, and I hope that every early-career librarian-archivist type has the opportunity to publish with such generous peers who are a little further down the path. We’re presenting it for a second time at the upcoming TRY+ conference, where I am also participating in a panel on the work that cataloguers and collections specialists can engage in to support the recommendations of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission. As a cartographic cataloguer who spent much of last week sorting through hundreds of maps representing mining potential on Treaty 3 and Treaty 9 lands, I try and think of all the ways in which I can acknowledge the histories and territories of Indigenous nations, which are generally unrepresented in many of the maps I work with, in my daily work at the library. At night, I wonder how new systems could be built to tell complex and overlapping stories of place.
This past semester I started my journey to becoming an “actual archivist” (instead of just someone who Has Naive but Big Questions About Archives). I learned (mostly) traditional archival theories in a class I wanted to like more, and dipped my toe into records management in a class I didn’t expect to absolutely adore. For my midterm paper in the RM class, I wrote a tremendously goofy but thoughtful essay about the trustworthiness of records on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, submitted the day after Gul Dukat took over the Alpha Quadrant Donald Trump was elected.
It is cold in Toronto. I bought the bike of my dreams in March and want to be on it all the time but it’s not ideal, as I’m lacking some critical cold-weather gear. Today was the quietest day of the year in the library, in that lovely intersession period where one could theoretically cartwheel around the map cabinets, if one only knew how to.
I finished up the aforementioned best course with a deep dive into the Prelinger Archives and what was probably the best paper/presentation combo I’ve ever come up with (not to mention best looking, eh). I never thought I’d find library work more suited for me than in the map library, but suddenly I found myself joining AMIA, rediscovering my love of broadcast media and ephemeral cinema, and creating a syllabus for a beautifully gonzo summer reading course on archiving landscape, again with Brock Silversides. It also just clicked, again, that the domain name I bought seven years ago emerged from a love of microforms.
During the day I’m working on the (huuuge) redesign of the Map & Data Library website, and two upcoming conference presentations: first, on the politics of my work as a map cataloguer at the TRY Library Conference at UofT. In June I’ll be heading to Fredericton for the Association of Canadian Map Libraries and Archives annual meeting, to speak on a workshop entitled Exploring Neighbourhood Change that I teach to highschool and first-year undergraduate students, introducing them to air photo interpretation and census data visualization with ArcGIS. Then I am going to Saskatoon with my library school (and beyond) bff Sheila Laroque where she can teach me how to drive at the age of 33 2/3.