This week is dedicated to the reappropriation of obsolete urban space. Phone booth libraries are starting to take the world by storm. The community book sharing movement has grown in the United Kingdom, using those iconic red phone booths, as well as in Portland and New York City.
New York City founder of the Department of Urban Betterment (DUB) and professor at Columbia University, John Locke, created the project for New York City’s phone booth libraries. Recognizing the obsolescence of phone booths in an era of cell phones and smart phones, Locke became inspired to recreate the use of these structures to promote community interaction. With these phone booth libraries people can take, leave, and bring back books as they please. According to Locke, “the project really began with that idea of how can we turn something obsolete and a net negative for the neighborhood into something worthwhile that would hopefully encourage community involvement and provide a sense of connection with neighbors over something shared.”
As cities become more developed, more populated and more constructed, community space will have an even greater role in human interaction. As technology advances, what other physical spaces, such as the phone booth, will become essentially useless? I think it is interesting that books have replaced the use of this obsolete physical object when books themselves are on their way to being replaced by electronic copies and Kindles. It is almost a stance against such technological development and a sort of nostalgia for a slower-paced society.
The use of micro-libraries cannot only be a space of communal interaction and sharing in developed cities but can promote literacy and education in underdeveloped nations, as well. The Uni is another project created in New York that has similar principles of using public spaces to promote community engagement – but they also promote literacy and communal learning. Their portable open-air table and library was recently shipped to Almaty, Kazakhstan where it will be tested and used in the capital city.
To see how other cities around the world are promoting literacy and community interaction in unusual ways, click here.
By: Megan Rilkoff