Welcome to “Our Riches: A Library in Swann,” a community library in the Swann Building at Georgia Tech. This little library is inspired by Kaouther Adimi’s novel Nos Richesses, which has been translated into English as both Our Riches and A Bookshop in Algiers – the sources for the library’s name. While examining the novel in my FREN 4246 + FREN 8803 course, “French and Francophone Media and Film,” students and I discussed Franco-Algerian colonial history, narratives of empire, and the ethics of doing history and reading literature. We also analyzed the optimism Nos Richesses expresses in the face of a changing landscape vis-à-vis printed books, considering the ways in which objects – namely physical books and the bookcases/shelves/boxes that house them – can be media. Echoing these reflections, “Our Riches: A Library in Swann” seeks to cultivate community, welcome shared encounters, and display the importance of discussion and exchange.
This library’s inaugural collection was curated by the students of FREN 4246 + FREN 8803 in Spring 2023. Thanks to a grant from Serve-Learn-Sustain, we were able to purchase an assortment of used books from small bookstores and support local, independent businesses in the process, too. The creation of this library also came on the heels of the U.S. surgeon general’s warning about an epidemic of loneliness and loss of connection in the United States and a new advisory on how to address this public health challenge. Two of the six recommendations in the advisory mirror the governing principles of this little library: “Strengthening social infrastructure, which includes things like parks and libraries as well as public programs” and “Cultivating a culture of connection.” “Our Riches” can be but one step in the creation of sustainable communities, that is, communities that last over time and improve the well-being of their members and the environment surrounding them. The little library in the Marché couvert/Covered Market in Metz, France (where the SLS-France program takes place every fall) is another example of an “epistemic space” that looks to foster more sustainable communities.