Small hutches filled with books have been charming neighborhoods across North America. They have been spotted by the sidewalk and in the media more and more frequently over the last few years. You may say Little Free Libraries, Book Trading Posts, Community Lending Libraries, or Neighborhood Book Exchanges. You may say “Take a Book, Leave a Book”, “Give a Book, Receive a Book”, or “Share a Book, Enjoy a Book”. But, whatever you name them or however you explain them, the principle is the same: an open-invitation to share books with passersby.
As intriguing as these book exchanges are, very little is known about them. News articles have claimed that neighborhood book exchanges are avenues to promote literacy and build community, or reactions to surging digital technologies or waning public libraries. But no one has approached the NooX and its potential impact with objectivity or rigor.
Introducing the Neighborhood Book Exchange Study
In May 2012, we established the Neighborhood Book Exchange (NooX) Study. We were charmed and provoked by the NooX phenomenon. We wanted to investigate:
- How NooX are designed, installed, and used
- What motivates the stewards and visitors’ participation
- What impact the NooX may have on the neighbors and neighborhood
With the support and council of Dr. Lisa Nathan, assistant professor at the University of British Columbia’s iSchool, we designed an exploratory study of neighborhood book exchanges. During the summer of 2013, we studied six NooX in Vancouver, British Columbia. Our study used a mixed-methods approach, relying on steward interviews, neighborhood surveys, observational data, and media analysis to investigate the initiation, participation, and role of neighborhood book exchanges in Vancouver.
Currently, we are analyzing our data and compiling research reports. Our first academic research report will discuss our findings as they relate to theories of information practices. We hope our research will contribute to both public and academic discussions of what we can learn about NooX and what we can learn from NooX.