Cycling and libraries – A reflective inquiry of selected metaphoras

One of the numerous frequently asked questions to Cycling for libraries has been: why bicycles and libraries? What is the connection between these two, seemingly unrelated things?

Any connection might be hard to see. Admittedly Cycling for libraries was initially a semi-random mash-up, based on intuition. The original organisers couldn’t be sure what would the outcome be. However their intuition was correct, and the connection became very clear- libraries and bicycles represent exactly the same values. Democracy, individualism, humanism, egalitarianism, efficiency, accessibility, pragmatism, maintainability, movement and of course… sustainability.

The operation principles of bicycles and libraries are understandable to any observer, without hidden magic. Both are practical tools of travel, expanding the reaches of the mind and body.

A cyclist and a librarian both have an intimate, two-directional dependency on their tools, the library and the bicycle. The spinning wheels form two gyroscopes, which keep the bike from falling. Two similar perpetually rotating processes in the library might be collection management and customer service. They work together as one and travel the same path together. And like a bicycle, a library must stay on the move or it will fall.

Interestingly enough, especially public libraries also share a political history with bicycles. Both have been important tools in the emancipation processes of the labourforce, women and other oppressed groups. They are the tools of equality.

Both bicycles and libraries are easy to sympathise with. If you talk to any person in the world, they surely love both bikes and libraries… both concepts are universal and easy to understand. This easiness to sympathise with has helped us in organising the Cycling for libraries -project. Any sensitive person can imagine the connection between cycling and librarianship.

During Cycling for libraries of course also travelling and the the road itself were important symbols. The road represents the future of libraries. It is repeatedly interrupted by intersections. Each of these is a moment of a decision. By remembering the core aim (get to the destination) and plan (follow the cycleway), all the decisions were easy to make. By being loyal to the collective decision to ride together and keeping an eye on each other, it could be guaranteed that everybody reached their common goal.

Cycling for libraries was a temporary, amorphous, pop-up library-organisation with a clear goal and strategy. It was beautiful and it worked perfectly.

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