Readers for Life: Traveling Libraries

Mobile Library 2013 by Michael Coghlan. Used under CC-BY-SA

Mobile Library 2013
by Michael Coghlan. Used under CC-BY-SA

Not all of us have the pleasure or ability to visit a local library. In many parts of the world, people depend on libraries coming to them. There are some amazingly creative mobile libraries that make the joy of reading available to people, whether in big cities or rural areas. What is truly remarkable about these libraries is that the most important cargo they carry is wisdom, and they share it freely.

The first bookmobile, or mobile library, was horse-drawn. It was established in 1857 in Cumbria County in North West England. As the examples below illustrate, mobile libraries have not vanished due to our brick and mortar buildings or the Internet. Instead, the creativity of individuals who want to share with others their passion for reading has continued, and as we will see, find many forms.

Weapons of Mass Instruction looks like a tank full of books. Created by the artist Raul Lemesoff, of Argentina, it was initially designed as a “peace tank” to merge art, culture and political protests against weapons of mass destruction in 2003. The project transcended the artistic and cultural arena and became a social project where Mr. Lemesoff travels through Argentina, where he offers free books, screens films and invites other artist to join him in visiting places where cultural events seldom reach. A map of his travels thus far is found here.

BiebBus is a children’s mobile library in the Netherlands created by architect Jord den Hollander. In areas that cannot finance their own full-time libraries, and due to the narrow streets in the rural areas, a “traditional” book mobile was not a viable answer. Thus, Mr. den Hollander wanted to come up with an alternative solution and the BiebBus was created. To solve the spatial issues and the desire to create a library experience that is special for visitors, he designed two rooms that can slide over one another. The smaller room is a fixed space that holds 7,000 books with a transparent ceiling. The upper room is used as a “hang out” area, with soft seating, a crow’s nest for reading, and provides access to the Internet. It is a creative and awe-inspiring vehicle and entices both children and adults to visit.

The Floating Library is a wonderful experimental art project from the mind of artist, writer and educator Sarah Peters, which “explores the underused amenity of the urban lake as a civic and creative place”. It can be see on Cedar Lake during the summer months in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It features bookshelves built into the raft to hold books and other printed material. Patrons use canoes, kayaks, paddle boats or any means of watercraft to visit the raft and protective covers on the books are provided to keep the material dry. The project was inspired by the idea of “beach reading” and provides those on the lake during the summer months with a wonderful, imaginative way to discover new reading material.

Bibioburro is a creative way to provide books to people in areas of the world where only one kind of “vehicle” can reach – burros. Librarian Luis Soriano uses two donkeys, Alfa and Beto to deliver books to remote villages in the central region of Columbia. Additionally, in Ethiopia, Donkey Mobile Libraries are used to bring reading materials to people in remote areas. The project began in 2006 and has expanded to include six donkey libraries that run a circuit from village to village, providing library materials to school children who would not have access to these sources previously.

These are just a few examples of the variety of creative ways librarians, artists and bibliophiles have attempted to bring knowledge and the love of reading to people in areas where traditional libraries are not available. More of these amazing projects can be seen here.

Have you had the pleasure of visiting a Traveling Library? Please share your experiences on our Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn accounts.

Molly Brown, ILN Content Officer

Posted in Discussion topics, Round 2016A and tagged , , .

One Comment

  1. Thank you for this most interesting post! I just love that you are so interested in and willing to share information about such important ideas. You go girl!!!

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