Link roundup: Playful libraries, the secret to reading a lot of books, and more

Peep this slideshow from Flavorwire about the most playful libraries in the world:


NYC’s Robin Hood Foundation library.

Read these:

Take action:

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How the Garden Library in Tel Aviv is growing community

Growing up with an Israeli mom and an American dad, I spent my summers in Tel Aviv and the school-year in New York.

South Tel Aviv was not an area we would frequent as a family. Distinguished by its proximity to the Central Bus Station – both the biggest bus terminal in the world and one of the most infamous urban planning disasters – the area is home to asylum seekers and migrant workers, many of whom who are transported there upon arriving to Israel.

Levinsky Park, only a few blocks long and wide, is a short walk away from the bus terminal. Walking home through the park with my sister Yael was consistently emotionally trying. People slept on and around playground constructs – huddled under plastic tarps to seek refuge from the rain – or just spent the day idling due to unemployment.

There is less homelessness now due to selective deportation, though the park remains the heart of the community of migrant workers and asylum seekers.

The communities that share this contentious space are vastly different linguistically, nationally, and culturally, though coexist due to affordability and circumstance. These qualities were what drew us to live in the neighborhood when Yael and I moved to Tel Aviv for our college studies a couple of years ago.

Moreover, these qualities are what inspired ARTEAM, an interdisciplinary art collective, to found the Garden Library in Levinsky Park in 2009, a beacon of hope amidst the often bleak landscape. A self-proclaimed “social-artistic urban community project,” the public library has helped transform the park, stitching together the disjointed, accidental community.

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Photo credits: Tanja Rochow, Levinsky Garden Library, and Yael Krevsky.

Talia Krevsky is a former Idealist team member who went on to actualize her idealistic pursuits in the Middle East, where she recently completed her Masters in Conflict Resolution and Mediation. She is committed to contributing to the transformation, or evolution, of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, creatively and non-violently.

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Book Review: Librarians as Modern Superheroes

In This Book Is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All, Marilyn Johnson guides us through a world that few library patrons have probably thought about: the progressive, activist, cutting-edge, modern, hip, and exciting side of libraries and librarians.

Johnson easily convinces us that librarians do much more than shelve books, and provide more than just a place for the public to access information for free (as if that weren’t a noble enough cause!). She shows the range of other roles that librarians play in society. Some library professionals double as “street librarians” who volunteer to supply information to activists during protests. Others have staunchly defended civil liberties, keeping their community members’ confidential information private, even in the face of government mandates. And there’s even a whole chapter about reference librarian avatars in Second Life, and how the virtual world became a safe space to connect people with information on sensitive topics such as transgender identity.

This Book Is Overdue! demonstrates that librarians not only have to keep up with technology and other trends, but are often active agents of change as well. Johnson introduces us to a fellowship program in which leaders from all around the world gather in Rome to learn techniques from librarians on how to access, organize, and share information—skills that they’ll bring home to empower the underserved communities that they work with. In another chapter, she highlights archivists as benevolent preservationists of things that might otherwise get lost forever, from ever-changing online material, to obscure zines, to finicky electronic documents, to artifacts that get tossed to the curb.

The book provides a fun overview of the unexpected roles librarians play, as well as the quirky culture that arises out of their profession. But it doesn’t quite serve as a cohesive or critical piece. Readers may be left wondering about the actual impact of all of this noble work, because Johnson stops short of examining it.

Johnson’s book comes at a crucial time. It’s a good reminder of the services we’re losing as libraries face dramatic budget cuts; maybe it will give readers that extra push they need to decide to donate to their local library system. It also demonstrates that library services are not becoming unnecessary with the rise of the web; in fact, they’re becoming even more useful and accessible.

If you want more juicy details, borrow the book from your local library, or buy it from Amazon using this link (a royalty will be paid that helps support As you read through the fascinating anecdotes, don’t be surprised if you find yourself daydreaming about getting a graduate degree in information sciences. If you’re serious about it, you can even talk to admissions representatives from these programs at some of our Graduate Degree Fairs.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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If I Had a Hammer: Tool Lending Libraries

I love public libraries. They provide a fair system for sharing books, movies, and other media with other members of the community. It seems only natural that the library model could be expanded to include other useful, shareable items.

By Flickr user takomabibelot (Creative Commons)

So I was thrilled when I heard about tool lending libraries. Tools, like books, are infinitely useful and empowering, but sometimes only get used once. Tool lending libraries, which often work just like regular libraries, allow people to borrow things like drills, clamps, and wheelbarrows — making repairs and improvement projects more affordable and accessible.

Wikipedia lists more than 25 tool libraries around the United States, Canada, and Australia. Many are run out of existing public libraries (Berkeley Public Library was one of the first to offer the service) or other government agencies.

Some tool libraries are affiliated with volunteer programs. HandsOn Greater Portland lends out tools for volunteer projects, while HandsOn New Orleans offers the tools that aren’t currently being used for volunteer projects out to the public. In addition to a tool library, Rebuilding Together Central Ohio sends volunteers to help low-income, elderly, and disabled community members with house repairs.

Other libraries are limited to lending tools that serve a certain purpose. The Ottawa Public Library lends out pedometers to encourage citizens to walk more and improve their health. Silicon Valley Power offers tools (electric meters, caulking guns, etc.) that help Santa Clara residents and businesses monitor and increase their energy efficiency.

If you already have more tools than you know what to do with, consider donating some to a tool library near you.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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