The World Spins | Office Hours

Library tourism has long been a thing, but a new website devoted to highlighting libraries worldwide offers a chance to tour some far-flung institutions from wherever you happen to be. Launched just a few months ago, Library Planet (libraryplanet.net) is a “crowdsourced travel guide for libraries” created by Christian Lauersen of Roskilde Libraries and Marie Engberg Eiriksson of Gladsaxe Libraries, Denmark.

Michael Stephens head shotLibrary tourism has long been a thing, but a new website devoted to highlighting libraries worldwide offers a chance to tour some far-flung institutions from wherever you happen to be. Launched just a few months ago, Library Planet (libraryplanet.net) is a “crowdsourced travel guide for libraries” created by Christian Lauersen of Roskilde Libraries and Marie Engberg Eiriksson of Gladsaxe Libraries, Denmark. I recently chatted with them about the project and what it means to participate in global librarianship.

 

FOLLOW YOUR HEART

The site grew from a shared love of libraries and traveling. Lauersen and Eiriksson visit libraries when they travel and wanted a way they could share the experience with each other as well as other people. Both agreed: “What we need is a Lonely Planet guide for libraries!” Lauersen tweeted the idea to his followers—“Should we do this?”—and the feedback was positive.

We wanted “to give the world a window to explore the wonders and the diversity of the libraries on this planet,” Lauersen said. A few days later, they created the site, and the submissions have been coming in a steady flow ever since. “People send amazing stories of visits from libraries from all over the world," Eiriksson told me. "From Linköping to Tangier to Vasconcelos. We just edit a bit and share the love on the site.” Submissions come from librarians all over, highlighting their local gems or any number of “must-see” libraries of note. “It is mind-blowing to think of how different libraries are—from huge flagships like the State Library of Victoria to small one-room libraries in a rural community in French Polynesia,” Eiriksson said.

 

SPARKING JOY

I asked about some of the most unique submissions. Lauersen and Eiriksson were quick to point out that all of the entries are unique and serve as examples of how a library can make a difference in peoples’ lives. One of the first received was from Devonport Public Library in New Zealand, which features a hobbit-hole window in the children’s area and a free-ranging library cat named Benjamin. In an entry for the Wat Damnak Center for Khmer studies library in Cambodia, contributor Rut Costa Fornaguera describes the pink building with plain columns, a pond, frangipani trees, and Buddhist sculptures as “a peaceful Khmer microcosmos.”

Lauersen and Eiriksson noted the entry Bibliothèque de Moorea in French Polynesia stands out because it’s a rather humble library, but the photos and accompanying text portray the library’s eagerness to serve the community. “We always get so happy when we read these entries—the joy just jumps off the pages.”

 

CALLING ALL FRIENDS

This is a grassroots effort at its best. The entries vary in scope and content, but behind them all is the idea that offering views of our facilities provides yet another way to bring us together. This is an important community of global librarianship and one that anyone with a few minutes, a camera, and a library to highlight can join.

Lauersen and Eiriksson agreed, writing, “If we all went about creating libraries in our own silos, we would miss many great opportunities.” Of course, we need global library collaboration on the formal level to ensure we have solid platforms to discuss and develop libraries, to advocate for our services, and to influence decision-makers. We also need to encourage global librarianship on a level that reaches all. I’m thinking of the benefits for LIS students, library staff, and other stakeholders of spending some time as virtual library tourists.

Just as I reached out to Lauersen and Eiriksson and made a connection, all of us in the field should feel the same about knocking on a library’s door around the globe (in person or virtually) and asking for a visit, a chat, some insights about the work, and a glimpse at how folks on the other side of the world do what we do. Lauersen and Eiriksson said it so well: “We need to feel that we are in this together. We need to feel that we share a mission about making this world a better place to be.”

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Michael Stephens

Michael Stephens (mstephens7@mac.com) is Associate Professor at the School of Information, San Jose State University, CA

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