The Uni Project

Today’s guest post is brought to us by Chelsea Gunn, who is about to start her final year of the Simmons College GSLIS program, with a concentration is archives. She got involved with the Uni Project (which you can follow on twitter: @findtheuni) through her work with Street Lab.

Image Credit: Sam Davol

The Uni is a portable, open-air reading room set to launch in New York City this fall.

This “institution in a box,” created by the nonprofit Street Lab, will bring books and learning to a shared community setting at street level.  Husband and wife Sam Davol and Leslie Davol are the team behind the project, which is based on their 2009-2010 Storefront Library in Boston’s Chinatown.

As a library student, I was immediately drawn to the concept of the Uni. Physically speaking, it is a system of 168 open-faced cubes, which can be stacked together in different configurations or heights to provide shelving for books, benches for sitting and surfaces for film screenings. But beyond that, it is an innovating response to issues that are always on my mind when thinking about the role of the library in a community.  In particular, I am interested in exploring new methods of information organization and curation. I am also interested in the ways that context affects our perception of materials.

The Uni addresses these issues by taking books and other resources and placing them in new contexts to encourage creativity, learning and community engagement. Its lightweight, portable structure allows it to be positioned in strategic urban spaces, from a vacant lot to a school campus to a farmer’s market.

The structure’s cubed design allows for individually curated cubes that reflect issues or subjects relevant to the community the Uni is located within at a given time.  Being comprised of a “collection of collections” allows the Uni to change, adapt and grow in response to its audience’s needs and interests.

As book donations begin to arrive, the input of the library community is particularly vital. My conversations often return to the following questions:

  • What are the best methods of organizing and displaying our resources in order to foster enthusiasm, learning and discussion?
  • What are the books we most want to share with others?
  • How can the Uni best complement the local library system(s)?
  • Are there needs for programming that could be met outdoors at street level?
  • In what locations could the Uni have the greatest impact?

The expertise of librarians on these issues can maximize the impact of the Uni, and we would love to hear from you with ideas.

We’re approaching a deadline of August 15 to reach our all-or-nothing funding goal on Kickstarter. By then, we need gather online pledges from the public of $5000 to unlock our funding. Small donations welcomed. Now is the moment to donate and spread the word.

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