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Ourshelves Lending Library

My name is Kristina Kearns, and I just opened a lending library in the back of Viracocha on 21st and Valencia St.

Ourshelves offers a curated selection of international writings, new releases and classics, many of which are not readily available in the public library and which are, for some, unaffordable to buy outright. Curators include myself, a handful of longtime editors and booksellers here in the city, and local authors eager to share our favorite works with fellow bibliophiles.

For $10 per month, Ourshelves members take out one book and exchange as often as he or she likes. They can also request titles I don't already have, as I purchase 20-40 new titles per month based on member suggestion and request. Sliding scale options are available - some members leave a book of their own in order to borrow, and other members pay $20 per month to take out up to three books at a time.

I came to the idea of a lending library after spending eight months helping run an international bookshop in Greece. There I learned both the administrative aspects of maintaining a business/artistic space, and the intimacy of putting one of your favorite books into someone else's hands. I learned that the relationship between readers and printed books is stronger than our media contends, and that people's access to good literature greatly decreases in times of economic recession. Government's tend to cut off funding to public library's and buying books - even used ones - can be out of some people's budget while they try to find work.

I returned to the States a year ago and worked five jobs at a time, for eight months, in order to raise the funds to start this project.

Open just six weeks, we now have 53 members and received positive coverage in Bay Citizen, Bold Italic, litseen.com, as well as in upcoming articles in the Guardian, SFWeekly and theRumpus.net. Michael Chabon granted us access to his personal library to start our stock. The Friends of the San Francisco Public Library let us do a 1:1 trade for 250 books. The public library donated 5 copies of the new One City One Book pick, and McSweeney's - a publishing company I assisted for a year with their oral history human rights nonprofit - has kindly offered Ourshelves copies of their books.

Ourshelves recognizes San Francisco as one of the most literary cities in the world, and we hope to foster a physical space for writers and readers to meet, create, and explore the changes in today's publishing world.

Funded by San Francisco, CA (October 2011)

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