I just read about a fascinating social experiment on the ARLIS-L discussion list. The contributor is a librarian at Provisions Library in Washington D.C., which is described as “an arts and social change learning resource that amplifies compelling voices that challenge and redefine the mainstream. Its library and online services are a trusted source for alternative perspectives on a wide range of social change topics and its innovative exhibitions strongly engage the arts as a powerful means of exploring social issues and as an agent of change.” That in itself is worth further exploration.

Anyway, apparently this librarian was contacted by an artist with an idea inspired by the recent near-closings of Washington D.C. libraries. He wants to leave small locked boxes around the city that contain books and other objects. Subscription to these “libraries” would be keys mailed to applicants. The interesting concept is the interaction with the boxes and their contents. People would be encouraged to contribute art, poetry, etc. to the boxes. According to the librarian, “the effect would be a dialog between and among the library and its users”.

I think more ideas along these lines should be explored. Not only is this a way to counteract branch closings (if in a very limited manner), but also a really innovative and creative way to integrate art into library services and give people an outlet for creativity and collaboration. Pretty cool!