As a regular reader of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, I should have thought of what this morning’s NYT Style section brought to my attention much, much sooner. The traditional publishing model doesn’t work out for a high percentage of authors, poets, essayists, plenty of them plenty talented. They didn’t give up and stop writing–they have online journals, iPad magazines, blogs, secret society newsletters. Libraries are good at collecting things presented by traditional publishers–but how good are we at collecting this sort of thing? Are we still calling it ephemera and storing it in vertical files? Are we collecting them at all?

Since I may shortly be a librarian in the situation of the literary cubs in the Times article (well educated and unemployed), I’ve got a DIY library solution for DIY publishing. In the spirit of making your own place in this world, why not make your own library?

Materials needed:

  • Server space
  • Digital platform
  • Scanner
  • P.O. Box
  • At least one computer
  • At least one librarian


Writers like the cubs send their work to a central location, either in digital or print format. (It works for PostSecret.) The librarian at said location formats or scans said material, catalogs it (traditionally and socially, links to authors’ Twitter feeds, that sort of thing), and posts it to the library website.

How to pay for all that:

I mean, this sounds like a weekend project at first, but eventually people might be willing to pay for the service. Maybe digital library access can be a form of publishing for the unpublished, a way to be recognized, or at least a way to be discovered. Or, perhaps subscriptions to the library would be for pay (an older concept than the free library, to be sure).

Does this sound like something of value, writing types? Or is it simply more fun to revel in a secret bookstore existence? (Thanks to Scott for the secret link!)