Rendering of Librii concept showing a traditional reading room on the left, a shaded agora with free wi-fi in the middle, and an e-hub on the right.
A team that emerged from Rice University has launched a Kickstarter campaign to support Librii, a project that seeks to reinvent libraries and increase access to knowledge in the developing world.
The library would actively engage users as content creators, operate on a sustainable business model, and maximize the potential of high-speed information exchange. A reading room would house all physical documents, including materials requested by users and those made by users with an onsite machine that prints and binds books. The shaded area would provide free wi-fi connectivity. An e-hub would be available for a small fee and feature extensive electronic resources.
“Libraries today aren’t places where people go to absorb information in a contemplative environment, they’re places where people go to create things,” says Librii Director David Dewane. “Our goal is to get people connected to open access resources in such a way that will enable them to create content, gain access to educational materials, learn new skillsets, and ultimately provide the tools they need to flourish.”
The design of the building is impressive in its use of low-cost, sturdy materials that shape the outdoor “agora” or public space. The five members of the current team behind Librii—David Dewane, Rachel Dewane, Jeff Frey, Katie Plocheck, and Judd Swanson—all have roots at Rice University, Rice School of Architecture, or Rice Design Alliance (publisher of this blog). I saw Librii develop from a highly speculative idea to a project thoroughly developed over many hours of donated time and on-the-ground research in Ghana, where they hope to launch the pilot library.
To date, Librii has been made possible with seed funding from the World Bank Institute and with the Best Innovation Leveraging Technology award from the 2011 Dell Social Innovation Challenge. The Kickstarter campaign is made possible with 501c3 support from Architecture for Humanity, D.C., as well as support from a dedicated group of advisers and strategic partnerships, including Librarians Without Borders.
If the Kickstarter campaign succeeds, Librii will fabricate the pilot library. They are more than halfway to their goal of $50,000. If they cannot raise the remaining money, the pledges will be vacated. They are at a critical moment after two-and-a-half years of preparation. Building the pilot will be a crucial first step towards realizing the organization’s long-term goal of seeing a new wave of library construction echoing the Carnegie endowment that built more than 2,500 libraries globally, 100 years ago.