My research and prototyping has steered me to the concept of a shared public object. By building the Little Free Library, I'm testing neighborhood response to a shared object. These tiny libraries live fully in public space, twenty four hours a day. They are subject to the goodwill of those passing by. Will the library be knocked down? Will it be vandalized? It certainly could.
But so far, it is standing and books are continually being added and taken. To the skeptics who bring up topics of loitering and vandalism when I've shared my idea, boo ya! I'm not naive to negative possibilities, but I want to give optimism its time in the spotlight. The idea of amplifying the positive in a neighborhood is refreshing and I think that these libraries represent some of that. Every day that the library lives and is stocked, I believe the neighborhood has a nudge more trust and respect.
That's what social capital is all about – trust, respect and reciprocity. My hypothesis is that when a neighborhood collectively respects a public artifact, their respect for one another increases. These standalone wooden boxes are definitely not the end all be all though. I'm still pushing myself to think about what a network of these libraries would do to the neighborhood identity and energy of Bed-Stuy. I'm also contemplating ways to layer other services, experiences or routines to the libraries. What else could be shared? How can the libraries foster neighbor-to-neighbor interactions?