Leslie and Sam Davol became interested in libraries when the moved to Boston's Chinatown from New York City and couldn't find a neighborhood branch of one. So the couple, a former museum development director and poverty lawyer, respectively, teamed up with a property owned and spent four months testing the idea of a 5,000-book private, non-profit storefront library.
Now they are taking on a more ambitious idea. Working with an MIT design professor and graduate LIS students from Simmons College, the Davols hope to unveil around Aug. 1 a prototype of what they are calling the "UNI" -- the urban neighborhood institution. Somelike a cross between a rolloff demolition container and a big-city street-corner newsstand, the UNI will be designed to close up at night and open in the day and evening to interactions with its host neighborhood around books, discussion and perhaps even news, they say.
It's all about community engagement, they add, and they are hoping that after the Boston trial, libraries, news organizations and other community groups nationwide might be willing to sponsor one of the UNI pods.
In a half-hour discussion with Journalism That Matter's Bill Densmore, the Davol's discuss their idea and why one of their Simmons grad-student collaborators, Chelsea Gunn, will be participating in"Beyond Books," April 6-7 at the MIT Center for Future Civic Media.