or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Non-Traditional Circulating Collections in Libraries

   October 24th, 2012

Human Library ProjectHave you ever heard about something, liked the idea, and just accepted as fact that because you've heard about it, everyone else must have too, and then a couple years later happened to mention it in a room full of people like it's common knowledge only to have everyone look at you with blank stares? I get this a lot.

Most recently, it happened with the Human Library Project - you know, the idea in the news a couple years ago where libraries had collections of people you could check out - police officer, politician, Buddhist, lesbian, etc - and sit and talk with them to learn about their life experience.

I personally loved this idea, because it's a way to meet types of people you may never meet in your life's normal routine. Of course, I don't think the project every took itself to be grander than it was - I mean, you're only talking to one person, so of course you can't automatically generalize to everyone of that person's "type." The human books aren't stereotypes, so it's not like you're learning what life is like for all black men, but you do find out what life is like for this black man - which might be more than you knew before, and that's a good thing.

Anyway, like I said, I loved this idea when I first heard about it, and tucked it away. I happened to mention it during a meeting a couple weeks ago, and everyone in the room thought I was making it up. So I started asking around over the course of that week, and no one I talked to had heard of it. So, here you go, world - consider yourself officially informed. You are welcome.

I thought I'd also take this opportunity to mention a few other non-traditional things you can check out of libraries. Earlier this year, there was a PLA session on non-traditional collections, such as circulating ereaders, guitars, and running a seed library.

The iLibrarian blog is also a great resource for these types of ideas. Recent posts there include:

Seeing things like this makes me happy I work in libraries, but sad that I can't work in all the libraries. I mean, I've always thought it was cool that some libraries circulate cooking pans and artwork, and just last week we referred a patron to the Library of Congress' Talking Books program. But how much fun would it be to check out farmland or to offer a Maker Station?

Pretty fun, is my answer. I get excited by potential, which is why I never despair over the future of libraries - we've got potential coming out of our buns.

Librarian, her bun, and her book

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5 Responses to “Non-Traditional Circulating Collections in Libraries”

  1. Bonnie Cribbs Says:

    Hey Brian! I’m out doing some research about various library blogs and ran across yours – and plan to use it in an upcoming article I’m having published. Just wanted to offer some kudos for having such a cool blog! I love yours!

    Have a great one!

  2. The Librarian With No Name Says:

    It sounds like a compelling idea, but what if the patron loses or damages the person? According to super-legit resource humanforsale.com, the market value of your average adult human being starts at around a million bucks and only goes up from there. PLUS the cost of cataloging and processing.

    I’m only really concerned because our circ desk software is pretty old and DOSsy, and I’m not at all confident that you could fit seven figures in the fines field.

  3. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Bonnie: thank you – I’m looking forward to reading the article.

    @TLwNN: I honestly had not thought of that. Perhaps the humans are in-library-use-only?

  4. Thinking outside the typcial collection | Musing the Library Says:

    […] Swiss Army Librarian had an excellent post on non-traditional collections the other day. He first talked about the Human Library Project which […]

  5. Swiss Army Librarian » A Few Current Ideas and Trends in Libraries :: Brian Herzog Says:

    […] in libraries (like in Westport, CT), and this is sort of in that same vein. Also too, I think non-traditional collections (like seed libraries) are a great […]