Tiny Libraries, DIY Reading Rooms, and Other Micro Book Depots


We aren’t shy about sharing our love for books — and all the amazing places they are housed — around here. You visited some of the most beautiful college libraries in the world with us, we told you about our favorite bookstores — and highlighted your picks — plus much more. We wanted to venture into DIY territory and visit some of the tiniest — but gutsiest — libraries around the world. These are unusual places where lit lovers ventured to create a mini community athenaeum, and guerrilla librarians have set up camp in the face of budget cuts and closing institutions. Each micro library’s aim is different, but whether they’re promoting independent/alternative presses, or simply trying to encourage reading, these plucky, little libraries deserve your attention. Tell us your faves, and as always, drop us a line with the ones we may have missed in the comments below.


The Book Booth

The Clinton Community Library in New York has created the Book Booth — a re-purposed, vintage, English model K8 telephone box that now exists as a community book exchange. It even lights up at night! Creators encourage “readcycling” and like most micro libraries, request that if you take a book you leave one as well. When asked during a recent interview how many people could fit inside the micro reading room, creator Claudio Cooley advised, “Five desperate L.A. housewives, or two fat and happy country wives.”


Westbury Book Exchange

The Book Booth isn’t the only phone booth-turned-library you’ll see in our gallery. The former chat box is the perfect size for a tiny library and offers cover from bad weather. Britain’s smallest library — the Westbury Book Exchange — also utilizes an old telephone booth. Locals created the curbside lit room due to a shortage of libraries in their area. When their mobile book service was cancelled, they came up with this brilliant solution. Books that don’t get a lot of buzz are removed and donated to local charity shops.


Corner Library

The K.I.D.S. (Kindness and Imagination Development Society) Corner Library sits on the corner of Leonard and Withers in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The mini book depository is a dog house-sized hut filled with donated books, graphic novels, zines, DVDs, CDs, and other goodies. It’s run on the honor system. Interested patrons are issued a library card and code to the door lock (from creator Colin McMullan). You get two weeks to check out your title, and potentially come up with a donation of your own. Corner Library shares on their Tumblr: “We are especially interested in finding people interested in being Corner Librarians, especially in New York City, which means being responsible for checking your local Corner Library once a day to make sure it is running smoothly. Of course, we are also interested in library patrons and thoughtful contributions to the libraries, especially in the neighborhood where you live or work.”


The People’s Library

One of the most memorable moments from the Occupy Wall Street movement was the destruction of The People’s Library — a collection of books, magazines, newspapers, and other materials that had been donated or discovered during the occupation. It was located on the northeast corner of Liberty Plaza, but the November 15 raid demolished the facilities and most of the collection. The book-sharing system was resurrected by way of several mobile units — shopping carts and various crates that allow librarians to ferry books to the OWS storage facility and occupy events around the city. The People’s Library is looking for a dedicated space to allow widespread access to the collection.

Image credit: David Lang

Reanimation Library

Located in Brooklyn, the Reanimation Library is an independent library branch that houses a collection of discarded books. We’re talking about bizarre, outdated throwaways that the indie library has deemed worthy of your time. They find their collection at thrift stores, stoop sales, and random discard piles, giving them new life as ” … a resource for artists, writers, cultural archeologists, and other interested parties.”

Image credit: ThinkGeek

DIY Library Kit

If you have fantasies about shredding your library card and going rogue, ThinkGeek’s DIY Library Kit may be perfect for you. Thanks to the sexy self-adhesive pockets, stamps, and checkout cards, you too can transforming your personal library into the bookhouse of your dreams — from anywhere you damn well please.


Little Free Library

Hundreds of Little Free Libraries exist all over the world — some in pay phone booths and others in adorably constructed, miniature houses. Each location is tended to by a community steward and the only rule is “take a book, leave a book.” Little Free Library’s mission is to promote literacy and community. Meet the brand new library that just opened on the streets of Syracuse, NY.

Image credit: John Locke

DUB 002

Architect John Locke was drawn to pay phone booths when he created DUB (Department of Urban Betterment) 002 — a NYC community bookshelf that allows people to share reading materials. He converted the outdated space into a free mini library that contains books donated by local residents. Lock explains a little behind the method to his madness on his blog:

“I’m interested in pay phones because they are both anachronistic and quotidian. Relics, they’re dead technology perched on the edge of obsolescence, a skeuomorph hearkening back to a lost shared public space we might no longer have any use for … But they can also be a place of opportunity, something to reprogram and somewhere to come together and share a good book with your neighbors.”


The Dreamer’s Lounge

Cleveland’s Pop Up City initiative — part of Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative — runs events and hosts installations that temporarily occupy vacant buildings and active vacant land ” … in ways that shine a spotlight on some of Cleveland’s spectacular but underutilized properties.” Their Dreamer’s Lounge was a one night only, pop-up library that brought the gorgeous, but vacant, Broadway Free Library back to life for an evening filled with books. All volumes were then donated to the Cleveland School District. We hope events like these will encourage more pop-up library nights in cities everywhere.


Currently awaiting funding on the GOOD Maker website is a “guerilla installation and pop-up library” project called SPREAD. Created out of frustration due to the recent slew of public library and school budget cuts, the tiny library will be installed throughout low income Brooklyn neighborhoods that have difficulty accessing reading materials. The pop-up book depots will be made from biodegradable cardboard and are designed to attach to fences and signposts. Hopefully the project gets the necessary funds to make it all happen.


The Read/Write Library (formerly The Chicago Underground Library)

Just months old (their old location was wrecked by last year’s blizzard) the Read/Write Library in Chicago promotes indie/small press media and houses a diverse, local catalog that contains everything from zines to art journals. It’s run by volunteers and librarians from institutions throughout the city. The new community base hosts readings, performances, games, and music. Most people, however, head there to check out academic works and self-published tomes side by side, while they uncover connections centered on Chicago-minded influences.


A Swedish company has created what is essentially a book-filled automated teller machine. The boxy Bokomatens act as independent libraries that are fully capable of handling loans and returns ¬— and some of them can hold hundreds of books. It’s a great way to deliver lit goods to remote locations, or to promote reading in places you’d least expect — like the mall or residential areas.