Four Amazing Mini Libraries That Will Inspire You to Read

Architizer's round up of mini, pop-up libraries from around the world will inspire you to pick up a book.

Libraries are among the most important of human institutions, warehousing knowledge accumulated over centuries, nay, eons. Libraries are also very alluring places, often built with ornate and cavernous reading rooms, vertiginous shelving for book storage, and winding secret passages. Originally built to protect books from ruin, libraries are generally gigantic bunker-like buildings. Inwardly focused, they restrict access to their treasure troves to those who whisper and can thrive without sunlight.

With the advent of the internet, however, all of the world’s knowledge is available instantly to anyone who desires it. Books are no longer precious for the information within them, but rather for their physicality: you can’t hold the internet or turn a webpage (discounting the swipes of an iPad). This frees libraries to pursue another of their functions: to foster dialogue and investigation. To accomplish this task, libraries themselves have had to get smaller, and more mobile. More accessible to a larger population than a classic library, the Pop-Up Library preserves the intimacy and experience of the book. Below are some great examples of this new species of institution.

Levinski Library by Yoav Meiri Architects

The Levinski Library, also known as the Garden Library for Migrants and Refugees, was designed to provide escape from worldly troubles within the pages of books. Located in Tel Aviv’s Levinski Park, this pop-up library features a collection of books from around the world, in languages from all continents. Yoav Meiri Architects write that they wanted the library to be approachable by all people, at all hours of the day, so that it could be used without fear by its intended audience: illegal immigrants. It is composed of two sets of bookcases, one tall and meant for adults, and across from it, a child-height shelf filled with children’s books. The doors to the children’s shelves fold down to create a play floor, while the doors to the adult shelves lift up to create a canopy spanning the distance between the two halves of the project.


Artist Massimo Bartolini’s entry for Ghent’s "Track: A Contemporary City Conversation" festival is composed of two summertime favorites: wine and books. The installation, entitled "Bookyard," features twelve rows of bookshelves, each aligned with the rows in the vineyard of nearby St. Peter’s Abbey. Visitors are invited to donate, borrow or purchase this pop-up library’s books as they sit on the grass of the surrounding fields and sip the monastery’s wine. This installation, like many pop-up structures, is temporary and will be taken down at the end of the festival this September.

Photos by Massimo Bartolini


Pay phones are an obsolete, if ubiquitous, technology, and with 13,659 of them, New York is letting tons of potentially useful public space go to waste. Or it was, until an architect named John Locke (can this really be coincidence?) and his group, the Department of Urban Betterment, stepped in. No, they didn’t create a "taskforce" or appeal a zoning decision or anything that might be in any construed as "bureaucratic." Rather, they started converting payphones into mini-libraries. Their custom-made shelving fits over the existing phone infrastructure, requiring absolutely no fasteners or glues. The phones are still operable, in case any cellphone-less soul has an emergency. Now the pay phone kiosks return to their intended use as urban social infrastructures, as neighbors share books and other media.

Photos and drawing courtesy of Department for Urban Betterment


Fundación Alumnos47, a Mexican cultural literacy organization, was seeking a way to engage residents and students in Mexico City with the arts and to teach them about visual culture. However, many of members of their intended audience either didn’t have time to go to a library, or didn’t have enough money to get there. So Alumnos47 decided to enlist architecture firm PRODUCTORA to design a mobile library; if you can’t get to the library, let the library come to you.

The shelves of the Biblioteca Móvil A47 are raised on overhead trays, freeing the floor for public gatherings. The floor itself is composed of stackable platforms, enabling a variety of spatial formats for different types of events. The doors of the Mobile Library are translucent when closed and allow for seamless connection with surrounding urban contexts when open. Thus, the library is at home wherever it goes.

Photos courtesy of PRODUCTORA

This post is part of the GOOD community's 50 Building Blocks of Citizenship. This week: Get a Library Card. Follow along, join the discussion, and share your experience at #goodcitizen.

Julian Meehan

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