Following guest posts from Marta Cabral on treating children’s art with respect, Adrienne Hannan on what librarians can learn from military strategy, and Hamish Lindop on the best way to reach out to our customers, we’re joined this week by Auckland Libraries’ Baruk – aka @feddabonn on Twitter – an outspoken, audacious, and innovative librarian who co-designed and delivered our interactive teen space (featuring real live teens!) at the recent Auckland Libraries hui New Rules of Engagement. Here’s Baruk on ‘Walking Through Walls’:
We usually think of libraries as being confined to specific spaces that people come to. Even the more liberal expressions I have heard, “parks with walls” still focuses on a particular geographic space…with walls. And one wonders – does this attitude wall us in psychologically as well?
I’m an Aucklander and a librarian: although I grew up in a remote corner of north eastern India, I work in New Zealand’s largest city, in the biggest public library system in the southern hemisphere. A decade into the 21st century, the majority of the human race lives in an urban environment – but at the same time, the concept of the city is being re-imagined. This breakdown is a rich source of inspiration for librarians; here are three examples.
Frieze magazine recently published a piece on the methods of urban warfare used by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). It’s a philosophical change as much as a tactical one, based on a drastic re-conceptualisation of space. If a soldier sees an urban space as consisting of streets and houses, each doorway and window becomes a threat that could hold a sniper or be booby trapped. The IDF therefore ‘walks through walls’, using explosives to blow apart roofs and walls that stand in the way of the direction they wish to go.
“We interpreted the alley as a place forbidden to walk through and the door as a place forbidden to pass through, and the window as a place forbidden to look through, because a weapon awaits us in the alley, and a booby trap awaits us behind the doors. This is because the enemy interprets space in a traditional, classical manner, and I do not want to obey this interpretation and fall into his traps.” – Brigadier-General Aviv Kokhavi
What’s good for war is also good for play: the increasingly popular sport of parkour does something similar, in its refusal to stick to prescribed paths laid down by urban planners. Parkour players – “traceurs” – make a game of moving vertically, climbing walls and jumping roofs to move between spaces. While at first glance it looks like it requires more athleticism and gymnastic ability than most of us have, it is more about one’s attitude to space, and really another way of tracing desire lines in the urban landscape. (See more on desire lines and libraries from Books and Adventures guest Jess Begley).
If we lack the acrobatic skill to move through the urban space as a traceur would, there are other options. Read more