In class on Wednesday, we brainstormed and discussed possibilities for mobile libraries on Davidson’s campus and/or the larger Davidson community. A common thread that emerged in the brainstorming about the user session was the question of whether or not the users (Davidson students) had a need or even wanted a mobile libraries.
Reading for pleasure is rare on Davidson’s campus. Hearing about a someone who reads for pleasure is liking hearing about a Sasquatch sighting: it’s possible, but kind of weird and unlikely. The culture here is TURNED ON all the time, so students are constantly busy and trying to stay afloat on the reading and work for classes. There is no time worked into the day for free reading, and furthermore, the culture of over-achieving and type-A drive would not permit such a frivolous use of time. Alternatively, if students do experience free time or spend time procrastinating, an astute question came up in class: why read books when you can watch Netflix?
This is not to say Davidson students don’t have a love of reading — there simply isn’t time in the academic school year that students seem willing to dedicate to free reading.
If there were to be a mobile library on campus, I think the hardest issue to overcome is getting students to engage — to get them to open the front cover. A bookshelf in Nummit or books left on the tables for people to flip through while waiting for their coffee or while taking a study break would create a situation of low-risk access and also appeal to the Davidson-minded multi-taskers: people are already in Nummit to eat, study, or take a break, so approaching the book is padded by having other reasons to be in the space. A library that is not integrated in this way will never be engaged with, because it would require people to go to it simply for the books; if Davidson students wanted to go someplace for books, they go to the main library — that is, if they want books at all (as we established, not many students are looking for opportunities to INCREASE their reading load).
Six owners of small bookstores echoed this sentiment in this article, noting that “café brings in hundreds of people, and they buy books and coffee.” The key here is books AND coffee, and the fact that it was the cafe that drew people.
Stocking Nummit with a collection of short stories or novellas is the best shot a mobile library would have at actually working, but even that can’t overpower the allure of Netflix and crushing homework loads.