Jason Griffey is a librarian, writer, blogger, technologist and speaker. He recently created a derivative of David Dart’s pirate box, known as the library box. While I do not intend to go in-depth into what the library box is, it is important to know some details: it is a mobile wireless router connected to a flash drive (and sometimes a battery pack).
Unlike the pirate box, the library box is primarily used for file distribution instead of file sharing. This means that users cannot upload data onto the library box; the exchange is exclusively one way. This means there are fewer legal implications. If the content on the box is illegal, the distributor is at fault.
What Can Be Shared?
So what can be shared, and what is the value? Any document that is within the public domain may be shared. The primary value of this is that it allows for works to be shared in areas that may have limited Internet access. It also allows works to be shared that may be legal to be shared, but not easily found. A primary focus of librarianship is increasing access, and this device absolutely works towards this goal. Project Gutenberg for books in the public domain and LibriVox for public domain audio books provide great free starter materials for the library box.
How Syracuse University Got Involved
On Saturday, November 3, a group of Syracuse University students began the process of creating a library box. The team was led by Beau Bradley, a first year LIS student, who is using the library box as part of a larger project he has titled, “I Am A Library.” His goal is to empower library students here at SU to educate the community, armed with content such as the library box and the knowledge to help with reference questions.
The hardware aspect of this is simple: connect a wireless router to a flash drive via an ethernet cable. There is also the potential to connect a battery so that it can run longer and in a wider range of contexts. Setting up the software is slightly more complex without much programming knowledge. The router must be set via command line script, and the router must connect with the Internet. It was this latter facet that undermined our project temporarily. Due to the need for a proxy server at SU, we could not access the Internet on campus with the library box, so the project has been temporarily put on hold.
However, while at the 2012 New York Library Association (NYLA) conference earlier this month, several of the participants in the I Am A Library project met a woman who had created her own library box. Our group was able to get some firsthand knowledge about how it worked. We were even able to access the content on our laptops and mobile devices.
It was incredibly easy to access the material, and realize that it might not be wholly intuitive how a user goes about getting this information. There is not a website from which peer files can be downloaded, but instead, while connected to the wireless router, going to localhost (the host name of the device itself) will make the contents visible.
So spread the word that the library box is coming, and if you have a place that you think would be a great host site, please feel free to get in touch with me. Librarians are breaking free of their cages of comfort and coming to a location near you!