Crate Prototype

Throughout this thesis project, I have had continued anxiety about how my thesis work will be perceived in my neighborhood. Despite logically acknowledging that I needed to get out of my head and go talk to people and make things, it's been an arduous struggle. 

After consulting with an alumnus of my program, I finally was jumpstarted to test out another idea. That idea is of a lending library, like a Little Free Library. But I ran into a chicken-egg situation. How do I ask the cafe owners of my neighborhood to consider posting a lending library if I can't demonstrate it's physicality and potential. Initially I was convinced I must construct the library myself. Eventually I figured out that a makeready would be an efficient compromise.

I bought a wooden crate from Home Depot and laser cut a sign that reads "Bed-Stuy Lending Library. Give an item, Take an item." I gathered a bunch of books that could be donated and marched over to ReConnect Cafe to see if they'd be game to test out the lending library. It was pretty cool to see my idea in physical form and living outside of a cafe! Even a woman outside remarked what a neat concept it was. But upon chatting with the barista Ephraim, he said that the manager was uneasy about the loitering that could occur.

Loitering, eh? His fears are completely logical. But one man's loitering is another man's gathering. To loiter is to gather and be up to no good. Gathering is a positive social happening, for constructive and community outputs.

ReConnect's hesitation, which I respect, fueled me to test the idea out to my other two connections. I went over to Willoughby General and co-owner Rae immediately loved the idea. She even pointed to the devoted lending library she keeps in the store. She's game for the prototype and for an official and permanent outdoor structure.

Barbara and Rae – co-owners of Willoughby General. Photo credit @willoughbygeneral

Barbara and Rae – co-owners of Willoughby General. Photo credit @willoughbygeneral

Next stop: Brooklyn Blend. I caught Keishon when he was mopping the floors. He loves the library idea too! He called me "the ideas woman" and genuinely seems to appreciate the energy and ideas I'm bringing to his new cafe. It feels really nice for him to respond so warmly to me and for him to tell me that he values me. He even invited me to join him on a trip to the lumber yard next week because he's headed down there to find materials for benches and planters he wants to make. He thinks I could find some good reclaimed wood to use to create the library, so that it matches the style of the exterior of the cafe. How cool! Below is my mock-up of the cafe with the crate.

What if I posted outside of bodega's too? The angle of the photo is courtesy of the kind gentleman who took my photo.

Big takeaways:

  • Stop swimming in mental scenarios. Go. Do. Make.
  • Having conversations with my potential partners makes all the difference. That's where the energy, momentum and compassion lies.
  • Physical prototypes allow better understanding of ideas and allow testing of some criteria.
  • No idea amounts to anything if someone doesn't take the first step.