Tactical Urbanism for Libraries: Quick, Low-Cost Ways to Make Big Changes. By Karen Munro. Chicago, IL: ALA, 2017. 164 p. Paper $57.00 (978-0-8389-1558-5).

Making the most out of limited resources is a familiar situation to many librarians. How do libraries spark significant change within the constraints of tight budgets, limited staff time, and red tape from within the library system and without? Munro offers a solution in tactical urbanism—hands-on, short-term approaches to improve a city, neighborhood, or library with minimal budget and oversight. A popular concept in cities, it includes whimsical projects like yarn bombing and pop-up parks, as well as practical fixes to overlooked problems, such as building a footbridge over an obstructed walkway. Although long-term strategies are integral to developing cities or libraries, tactics can be used to address immediate needs or can mark the beginning of a large-scale initiative.

The author begins with an introduction to the concept of tactical urbanism, a glossary of urbanism concepts, and a discussion of how the approach is relevant to libraries. Like cities, libraries are often tasked with finding solutions to problems on the fly, without expertise or adequate funding. The book is filled with case studies of tactical urbanism projects, ranging from small, low-budget endeavors to massive city-wide initiatives. Chapter 2 describes several nonlibrary projects, each followed by a discussion of how the concept applies to libraries. Munro grounds the reader with a reality check before diving into library case studies. Potential pitfalls to consider include the possibility of alienating rather than connecting with the community, the risk of skirting legality, the need to handle the inevitable criticism constructively, and, of course, the lack of sufficient funding.

The library case studies range from public library projects (e.g., Dewey-less shelving systems), political activism (EveryLibrary), and metadata (MarcEdit, Koios, and Access Checker) to major city library renovations such as Washington, DC’s interim branches and London’s Idea Stores. Each case study includes a summary of the project, the key principles behind it, and the nature of the intervention. The author concludes each example with an interview with one of the project planners, providing further insight into the process.

Tactical urbanism is an approach that can be used for problem-solving and enhancing services in any type of library, as all librarians function within the constraints of budget and bureaucracy. I would most strongly recommend this book for public librarians. The many examples provide inspiration for innovative programs and community-library partnerships. Library directors will find helpful information in the “library leader’s guide” for fostering passion projects in their organization. Tactical Urbanism for Librarians is a great resource for library staff looking for new ideas for doing more with less.—Jessica Givens, Library Associate in Information Services, Southwest Oklahoma City Public Library, Oklahoma City


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