The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Pop-Up Libraries in Pay Phones

A lending library housed in a New York City pay phone. Photo courtesy of John Locke

Remember pay phones? A few weeks ago, this story about community libraries installed in pay phones gave me goosebumps. I quickly determined I must speak to the man behind these portable lending libraries. Lo and behold, I tracked him down. John Locke is a designer at an architecture firm in New York City and he also teaches a course at Columbia University called Hacking the Urban Experience. The class encourages students to explore and participate in innovative exercises that illuminate "existing urban conditions," much like the way Locke re-imagines pay phones as libraries (without interfering with the booths' primary function). Needless to say, he is interested in bringing to life parts of the urban landscape that have either been forgotten or underused. Cue phonebooths. These metal boxes are relics of the days before cell phones, but they're also a kind of gorgeous and clunky reminder of how things used to be. Over the past few years, I've developed a strong love for anything pop-up: be they galleries, coffee shops, or, in this case, libraries. Locke and I spoke last night over Skype about his so-called "urban intervention." As always, thanks for listening. [4:40]



His project is currently featured on Spontaneous Interventions. You can also find out how to make and install your own lending library on Locke's blog, Graceful Spoon. And remember, sharing is caring.

Music Credits: Excerpt of "Day Two" by Paul Rucker with Hans Teuber, from the CD Oil. Excerpt of "Cigarettes" by Proviant Audio from their CD, Mushrooms. Both songs can be found on WFMU's Free Music Archive, and were used courtesy of Creative Commons.


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