[iDC] Public Library thread

greta byrum gretabyrum at gmail.com
Thu Jun 30 19:41:48 UTC 2011

Apropos Kathleen's excellent points below, I would like to share a project
that explores the way that public spaces (sometimes surreptitiously) become
information-sharing points. I was interested in looking at whether the
institutional environment of the public library is replicated in other
public spaces, and so chose to look at NYC's subways as mobile
reading-rooms. The result is the Underground Public
Library<http://gretabyrum.com/files/UPL/index.html>site, which is
currently set up for crowdsourcing and data-gathering, but
which will hopefully become a repository for information about underground
reading in NYC, organized geospatially. I also hope to publish writings by
others interested in how reading in public works as a social, spatial, and
cultural phenomenon; please contact me if interested.


Greta Byrum
MS Urban Planning 2011
Columbia University GSAPP

On Thu, Jun 30, 2011 at 12:06 PM, Kathleen Hulser <kathleen.hulser at gmail.com
> wrote:

> Response to Shannon Mattern Libraries & Epistemology
> Shannon makes a key point by suggesting that the politics of information
> has to be part of the discussion of the future of these places. The physical
> library as a site poses different issues in New York City than in Lagos, and
>  differences are just as great when contrasting the urban significance and
> public libraries situated in thinly populated areas lacking any other public
> spaces.
> I think we should never lose sight of the importance of face-to-face
> gathering points that are open and public -- yes, call them "libraries and
> media centers" in today's world. In democratic societies to date, the key
> pretext for keeping libraries open and funded has been the educational and
> informational mandate: the cultural imperative seems to be less of a
> priority and more subject to budget cuts and political manipulation, so one
> can't trust community centers, etc. to remain open public spaces. See, for
> example, the discussion, of public spaces and gatherings in Lisa Keller's
> excellent comparative history "Triumph of Order: Democracy and Public Space
> in New York and London: which probes constraints on outdoor free speech in
> the American and British tradition. Those free speech issues always haunt
> discussions of libraries and epistemology, since assumptions about free
> inquiry are inextricable from political parameters of the public sphere.
> Kathleen Hulser, public historian, New-York Historical Society
> --
> "The political and commercial morals of the United  States are not merely
> food for laughter, they are an entire banquet."       Mark Twain.
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