The Whybrary is an imaginary library of brilliant things to share with children. It is a life project with no limits besides its own insignificance.
The Whybrary is curated by me, Guy Lochhead. I began this project while at Dartington College of Arts, when I gathered together all the scraps of paper on which I’d written things to find out more about and alphabetised them in a big spreadsheet. This now has around 15,000 items on it. So far I have researched around 1,000 of them. At this rate, if I don’t add anything else, I should be finished by the time I’m 180. But that’s beside the point. The people, places, events, animals, plants, objects, ideas and whatever else I have found out through the on-off process of “running” the Whybrary have enriched my life.
Initially, there was a more direct purpose to this idea – I wanted to make a children’s television programme full of references to the things “included” in the Whybrary, then I became a primary school teacher and used the items I found as starting points for lesson-planning, hoping to expose my class to wonderful things outside the curriculum.
Nowadays, I run a gym and work as a Personal Trainer, but the Whybrary still has an important role in my life. At times of anxiety or vacuity I crave opening the spreadsheet, randomly picking an item, transporting myself out of my situation, and trying to understand whatever I’m presented with.
Our wandering minds are increasingly shepherded by algorithms towards a narrow range of subjects, locations and time periods. There is prejudice here, and motivations beside just knowing. I don’t like the idea of it. In the ’00s, when I started doing this, it was easier to reel happily from thing to thing, using forums, blogs, torrents, newsletters, Stumbleupon and early YouTube. I hope that this project can restore some of that feeling and, in some small way, broaden the sorts of things that we get to experience.
That being said, it must be understood that I am also operating with my own internal and cultural algorithms – my sex, gender, age, ethnicity, the language I speak, the era I exist in, the resources I have access to, the time I have to spend reading, my education, class, politics etc. all come with inherent prejudices that will, I’m sure, come out in the content of my writing and the list itself (there is certainly a disproportionately high number of mediocre ’00s indie bands). I try to be fair but it’s truly impossible. If there’s anything particularly odious or just incorrect, please let me know by e-mailing or commenting on the relevant post.