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Brief Published: 5 Jun 2013

Little Free Libraries, New York


The Little Free Libraries movement has reached New York, thanks to a project from the PEN World Voices Festival and the Architectural League of New York, which challenged the city’s designers to create a host of new book shelters.

The US movement is based on the concept of “take a book, leave a book”, placing small-scale book shelters in local neighbourhoods for readers to take or deposit books. Ten design teams were chosen and paired with local communities to create a host of new Little Free Libraries for the city. The project was launched as part of NY’s biennial Ideas City festival, which was established by the city’s New Museum in 2011.

One of the most eye-catching designs came from NY-based design firm Stereotank. The firm created an “inhabitable” library within an inverted yellow tank (pictured), providing a private space for browsing.

The Little Free Libraries movement was founded just three years ago, but has already been adopted by more than 5,000 communities worldwide. The 10 New York mini-libraries were installed at the beginning of May, and will be active until September 2013.

The movement taps into an ongoing consumer shift in which access to goods and services is becoming more important than ownership. At the end of last month, New York’s long-awaited public bike-share scheme was launched, while Project 100 in Las Vegas aims to persuade citizens to renounce their cars entirely in favour of a new communal transportation system. Read more about this in Sharing Society and our Macro Trend, Balanced Values.