Between and beside on-screen reading, books maintain unique times and spaces. Not only are they the keys to many not-yet-digi­tised his­tories and still often­times the only path to deeper knowledge niches. And not only do they unfold thicker, more direct and porous spaces than digital documents in witnessing to occa­sion and historical era. Beyond ‘con­tent’ and object, as books need hands to be transferred, they hand us to the dialects, neighbourhoods and wafts of wash­ing agents in which we host and can mis­under­stand each other.

Welcome to the spatial library, a bookless heavy catalog for hardcopies and people invested in the organisation of coha­bi­ta­tion.

The spatial library is a jointly curated, emergent cata­log for prin­ted pub­li­ca­tions owned, held and ex­changed by its mem­bers. Its structure seeks to pro­mote the gathering of people and ideas around anticolonial and post­dis­cip­linary interests in trans­material spatial ecologies and their coindi­vidu­ation through tech­nical, social and economic pro­cesses. The library em­bra­ces a wide scope of en­gaged inquiries across, between and beyond the domains of media, social, urban and economic stu­dies, curating, artistic and design practice, phi­lo­so­phy, game re­search, agriculture, bio­logy or publishing.

The spatial library works in Helsinki, Fin­land. It may irregularly organise public events in reflection of its catalog and pur­pose.

Why, how

A lively publishing domain and steady sales show that the retreat of books from library and bookstore shelves signifies no decrease in the relevance of books. It does, however, speak to a decrease in the book's role as a “trey” or conductor for discussion in the pre-digital (that is, pre-bubble) idea of physical as public space.

How to take part

Currently, the library is a Telegram channel, a Telegram group and a (his­to­ri­cal­ly untended) Insta­gram account. To become a member, simply join the two Telegram presences.

The Telegram group is the library’s open agora. Here, members can post their books to share, request books for loan from others or, for example, post requests for books they have found hard to find.

The Telegram channel is the catalog spine of the spatial library. Shared books are listed here without the conversation cluttering the view. Both the channel and the group have a search function that allows finding back books that have been posted once.

How do I share a book

You can share books by posting them in the Telegram group. In the post, include the book’s bibliographic data (some tools to help you get them nice and easily are here) and add at least one good picture (of the cover, if it’s one).

Amongst others, good reasons for sharing a book are that you feel it makes important points that may be under-represented in present conversations; that you yourself had found it hard to find; or that you’re simply excited about it and would like to find someone who shares your interest.

I find the Harvard style to work well, but so that others can find your book, at least mention the last name(s) of the author(s)/editor(s), title, publisher and year.

How can I request a book

Members can request books for loan from other members by commenting on posts in the Telegram channel or getting in touch in the Telegram group.

Please note that, especially in the case of more valuable items, owners may not want to loan out all titles directly. Instead, they might be open to take a look at them together with you over a coffee, or simply be curious to speak with you about them – or with you about something wholly different, since a shared fascination with a particular book may come with further shared interests.

How does the loan process function

Loan processes are handled by the people involved. When you find a book you like to borrow, message its owner in the group (or on DM) to work out the practicalities like meeting point and time. As a lender, mind that you will be handling an item that has value to its owner, so think of some wrapping or envelop you could bring.

If you are insecure about exchanging books with someone who you haven’t met before, you can keep the conversation running in the group chat to have it seen by all others.

You can also use the group as a public record to mark your interactions, like moments of handover and return.

Practical utilities

ZoteroBib and BibTex are two useful tools to help you get a complete and well-formatted bibliographic entry from just your book’s ISBN number.

For Android phones without pre-installed QR/barcode reader, dimai’s QR & Barcode Scanner is a no-ads, no-bloat, FOSS app to get ISBN codes scanned.

In most cases, I have found ZBib to generate better outputs than BibTex, but not always. So, if you get an odd-looking output, check what you get elsewhere.

Arbitrarily and personally, I have come to like the Harvard style. If you want to use it, select “Cite Them Right 12th edition - Harvard (no ‘et al.’)” as the output style in ZoteroBib, and “Harvard” in BibTex.

Rules etc.

Be nice. If you’re an ass, you’re gone.