Libraries Without Borders (LWB) commits to working with Hivecube and partners to bring the first hurricane-resistant, solar powered, pop-up library (Ideas Box) and makerspace in the world to Loíza, Puerto Rico. The Ideas Box will provide a physical place where residents can host workshops, access books and digital tools, and participate in sustainable recovery programming. Located in the Centro Comunal Sector La 23 of Loíza, this space will serve approximately 100 families.
LWB will conduct a community assessment to identify resident needs, assets and resources. LWB will then solicit input from residents via a Town Hall, involving them in the design process for the new library. LWB and partners will incorporate community feedback into the design and Hivecube will hire two local part-time employees to support the retrofit and design needed for the library’s infrastructure.
The Ideas Box will provide access to digital tools (including 3D printers and VR headsets) and internet connectivity. LWB will train eight community members on facilitation and technical support for the Ideas Box, with the goal of engaging at least four to lead workshops in the six-month period following their training. By the end of the commitment, one of those community leaders will be trained to take on a full-time role managing programming for the community. LWB anticipates offering two workshops per week, ultimately delivering 48 workshops and reaching 120 residents by the end of the year, when they will also conduct a Town Hall to collect feedback.
Through community partnerships, LWB anticipates covering workshops on blockchain technology, coding and design thinking, virtual reality, marine health and microplastics, and will also offer interactive 3D printing and Arduino workshops. Technical workshops will comprise of modules specifically designed to promote participants’ mastery of skills.
The Ideas Box will provide community-based organizations and local residents alike space to develop skills, borrow tools, lead workshops, organize events, and ultimately regain a sense of normalcy.
April – May 2019: Community Needs Assessment of Loíza and 1st Town Hall for Stakeholder Input on Program Design
June 2019: Retrofit and Redesign of Ideas Box; Hivecube will bring on two part-time temporary positions for support; Begin community leader facilitator training (two-week intensive)
July – December 2019: Beginning of program: Host launch event with trained community leaders; Begin hosting at least two workshops per week, coordinating with trained community leaders and partners
November – December 2019: Monitoring and Evaluation of Program (program continues during M&E) (capturing attendance per workshop; recurring students; recurring facilitators); Begin training community leader to take on full time permanent role in leading the program
January - February 2020: 2nd Town Hall for Stakeholder Input on the Redesigned Ideas Box & Assessment
Hurricane Maria had overwhelming impact on Puerto Rico’s electrical grid and exposed the dilapidated conditions of its water and sewage systems. In addition, the storm destroyed much of Puerto Rico’s social infrastructure—shared spaces like parks, playgrounds, gardens, child care centers, churches, athletic fields, and other areas where people forge significant and abiding connections. Similarly, the storm led to the closure of 1,000 schools and an additional 1,200 small businesses—cafes, barbershops, bookstores—that had previously served as “safe spaces” where community members could come together to cultivate mutual support and collaboration. Although many schools and businesses aim to re-open, the reality is that some may have closed their doors for good.
The lack of social infrastructure and lingering unrest in Puerto Rico’s educational system extend beyond the loss of schools and shared public spaces. These conditions, if unaddressed, will dampen morale and undermine the prospect of a sustainable recovery. In the absence of places like libraries, parks, barber shops and cafes—the very lifeblood of communities—many people experience increased isolation and mental health problems. Similarly, such conditions lead to higher crime and issues with community cohesion (Klinenberg 2018). In turn, these circumstances often fuel feelings of desperation and powerlessness, which may prompt some Puerto Ricans to leave the island in search of better economic, social and civic opportunities.
Prioritizing social infrastructure in disaster relief and recovery efforts, in addition to addressing immediate needs such as food, water, and shelter, will be the key to recovery in Puerto Rico. As schools start to reopen and public services resume, shared spaces like community centers and libraries will play a critical role in helping residents regain a sense of normalcy and stability after disaster. By encouraging exchange, fostering trust, promoting civic engagement, providing educational opportunities, and enhancing the leadership capacity of residents, these shared spaces will allow communities to lay the groundwork for a sustainable, long-term recovery.
Libraries Without Borders is seeking financial as well as media support, specifically in raising awareness of the redesigned Ideas Box beyond humanitarian circles. The team is also seeking partnerships that can support the continued expansion of the program. LWB has partnered with Hivecube to redesign and manufacture solar-powered, hurricane-resistant pop-up libraries—the first of their kind in the world. The team hopes to develop a pop-up library and makerspace model that can be replicated across Puerto Rico and throughout the Western Hemisphere. LWB seeks to ensure that all subsequent pop-up libraries are manufactured solely in Puerto Rico, thus creating long-term, full-time employment and workforce development opportunities for the island’s residents. With subsidies from public and private sectors, the pop-up library and makerspace
Libraries Without Borders is willing to share expertise around implementing a similar community-based program, including finding local partners and training local leaders.