After the tragic events of January 2015 in Paris, access to information, knowledge and culture must be a national priority more than ever before. Yet large sections of the French population do not have access to libraries, either because they are too far away or because they are too imposing, or too closed in on themselves.
With the Ideas Box, Libraries Without Borders has created a formidable forerunner tool of public service. Easy to set up in any context, the Ideas Box can help break symbolic or physical barriers to access to the library or public services and creates a forum for exchange open to everyone.
If the Ideas Box contributes to strengthening existing cultural services such as libraries, its influence goes beyond the cultural sphere. Flexible, attractive and participatory, the Ideas Box is a way for citizens to take ownership of their city through mapping workshops, learning computer programming, hosting neighborhood councils, organize tutoring sessions for children, or to set up inspirational meetings with entrepreneurs. And all of this in some of the most underserved neighborhoods.
A pilot project in France
With the support of the Cultura Foundation, Libraries Without Borders ran an experimental Ideas Box program in 2015 in France focused on providing access to culture, information, and education for underserved populations (homeless, migrants, etc.) in and around Paris with little or no access to cultural services, as well as the general public.
The program was inaugurated on April 22nd, 2015 and it was deployed in Paris' 10th arrondissement in collaboration with local government and public library services. Following this successful experience, the Ideas Box was then operated in suburban Paris as well as with the French Red Cross in isolated foreign minor centers.
The wide variety of settings and partners involved in the experimentation enabled us to demonstrate the potential of the Ideas Box in a developed country such as France, and in particular in the following three areas:
- Creating a focal point where local actors can meet and exchange
- A tool enabling libraries to conduct outreach activities
- Placing the library at the center of community life and events/li>
Ongoing and upcoming projects
From Calais, the first city to acquire an Ideas Box in France, to Parisian suburbs such as Stains, or the city of Marseille, a great number of projects are either ongoing or in the starting blocks, with many more to come.