Last summer, I had the opportunity to support Jason Griffey’s Kickstarter to improve the code for LibraryBox. At ALA this summer, I got to take mine on a test drive.
LibraryBox is an open hardware project aimed at getting documents, information, and entertainment in places where wifi does not abound. I’ll be describing what you get if you buy one from Jason already set to go–he also has all of the code freely available and very clear instructions on what hardware you’d need to build your own.
My LB about 2.5 inches square by about 1.5 inches high. It came with a preloaded USB drive and a power cord. It is very light–this easily disappears into the large purse that I carry everyday. I also was able to run it off of the Anker battery that I’ve started carrying.
Once I plug it in, in about 5 seconds it shows up in my wifi options on my computer or my phone as “LibraryBox Free Content!” (I need to rename it, this is just the standard name). On a PC or Android, opening a browser window takes me to a webpage from which I can download any content that is on the LibraryBox. On a Mac (and I assume Iphone), you need to navigate to librarybox.us, which will reroute you to the download page.
My primary use for this was my preconference: I was bringing data sets with me that I wanted my preconference attendees to download and use on that day. I have been to too many conferences and watched wifi crash too often to trust that I could rely on the convention center internet, so I loaded everything onto my LibraryBox, which was as simple as plugging the content USB into my laptop and creating a new folder. On that day, my attendees just needed to connect and download.
That same day, one of the other presenters had slides that he’d not yet had a chance to share. He presented in the morning, transferred the slide deck to my USB at lunch, and that afternoon our attendees could get the slides to take home. If we’d realized it first thing, I’d have grabbed them before his presentation but at least everyone had them before leaving.
I didn’t use my LibraryBox much the rest of conference but I see a lot of possibilities. Right now it needs to be supplemental: it does assume that your users either have a laptop or a smart phone that can connect to it, but it’s another way to give handouts to people, to transfer documents to people in the room, to offer free library content at the park or farmer’s market. One folder on my LibraryBox is the collected works of Cory Doctorow, who has licensed his fiction in a way that we can share it this way. If my Box is plugged in, you can get a lot of books to read.
One question I got from Madame Storyteller (I was showing her this in a restaurant–hence the battery test), was if I could still use it to connect to the internet and the answer is no. LibraryBox only lets you connect to the content loaded onto it, there’s no web browsing. This could have it’s own benefits, letting people download and access only what you want them to see and use. I could see setting up a LibraryBox for middle/highschool students that would have specifically curated material on it.
I also see great options for this in emergency settings or medical settings. If all of the forms or updated information could be sent out on a flash drive, all you need to do is power your LibraryBox and materials would be available to first responders, for download in a hospital (could we do extra patient ed this way?), etc. You can power it either by plugging it into the wall or a battery or via a battery–Jason had a solar pad on his backpack that he was using in Vegas, what with it being so sunny there…
I see a lot of possibility with LibraryBoxen, now I just need to figure out what work’s best for me and also to rename mine.