Starting a library

In the true spirit of I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-but-let’s-have-fun, I started a small technical library in Pisek, the town where I live.

The idea is to provide access to English IT/Engineering books, that are otherwise hard to come by.

Why a technical library?

It is an attempt to solve an availability problem, money problem and a personal problem.

Access to IT literature

Czech republic has an excellent National Technical Library, located in it’s capital.

However, towns around the country don’t have anything similar on a smaller scale. IT books are either missing, or they are about a specific release of a single software, and thus, obsolete after a few years - think Word For Windows 95 For Dummies.

We sorely need access to textbooks and books that explain concepts in an excellent way, or document state-of-the-art at a given point in time, and thus, are essentially timeless.

These books are expensive

I mean really expensive.

The median income in the Czech republic is around 23 thousand CZK, or about 850 EUR. A book like Okasaki’s Purely functional data structures starts at 50 EUR.

This is probably OK for companies, but there are not many individuals who can afford or want to spend 5% of their monthly income on a single paperback. Much less students, who’d benefit from the access the most.

Starting an IT community in Pisek

I moved to Pisek two years ago. As far as I know, there are no signs of any IT community, regular meetups, lightning talks or book clubs.

For me, it was always a lot of fun organising events and bringing people together, be it Codemonkeys - a monthly meetup of programmer friends in Prague, or Lightning Lizards semi-regular lightning talks at SUSE.

So I think it’d be great to have a place to hang out and chat with other programmers from Pisek, talk about ideas, latest tech, or even business opportunities.

Taking a shot at fixing the problem

There are few ways I can think of how to fix these problems:

  1. Support publishing and translations into Czech.

  2. Import the literature, promote, and re-sell it.

  3. Provide access to the books for free and let people who can read English explain, teach, and show the subject to others.

The first two are slow, expensive and don’t really solve the high-price problem. Actually, they almost sound like strawmen, don’t they? A local library and/or book club feels like a good way to go.

In the next post, I’ll try to dig a bit more into the ‘how’ of things and the progress so far.

Let’s see how it goes… Keep fingers crossed.