Lauren Comito, a Queens librarian and communications director for advocacy group Urban Librarians Unite, sees niche libraries as a threat that “perpetuate the myth that libraries are ‘a bunch of books on a shelf’ and that anyone could be a librarian, you just have to like to read.”
“At least one of these ‘DIY’ libraries is a doghouse full of books,” Ms. Comito said. “Well, if people confuse [public libraries] with being just a bigger version of a doghouse full of books, then yes, they could weaken our finances by cheapening our value from a profession to a hobby.”
Okay, just remove the “I’m a professional, so don’t you pretend you know what I’m doing” haughtiness of that comment. Even after that, I think she’s missing the point totally on these super-local, super-personal libraries (yes, they really are in every sense, libraries).
I’ll be the first to point out that any library (micro, dog house, or New York Public) is not a structure full of books. But, neither are these micro-libraries. They are a physical extension of a reading and learning community.
And, that’s what the best aspect of these micro-libraries, they represent an active community around them. The best libraries do this, reflect their communities.
While public libraries continue to struggle financially and bookstore chains succumb to the e-revolution, privately funded micro-libraries like Mr. McMullan’s are popping up around the city. Their founders—mostly artists and bibliophiles who tired of Googling their way to enlightenment—share a reverence for conventional libraries and their tradition of community programming.
“The internet is an incredible information tool, and Kindles seem very convenient,” Mr. McMullan said. “But they don’t satisfy a need we have for local, real-space exchange. These libraries are meant to help neighbors meet, know, and help each other.”