GOOD

Street Smarts: The Uni Project's Outdoor Neighborhood Reading Room

The Uni is a portable reading room designed to help making books more accessible in urban neighborhoods.

How can books be more accessible in urban neighborhoods? At a time when public libraries are underfunded and bookstores are closing, the Uni Project is hoping to help get more people reading by bringing books to the streets, literally.


The Uni is a lightweight, portable structure that's part library, part classroom. 144 open cubes can be stacked together in various configurations, and filled with donated books that the local community can browse (though not check out). Volunteer librarians staff the exhibits. The founders explain their motivation:

What we see at street level in many urban neighborhoods does not reflect our aspirations for ourselves and our society. If we're serious about having a well-educated society, let's build cities where learning experiences are prominent, accessible, and enjoyable. Let's show off our best teachers, librarians, and educators doing great work, and give them opportunities to adapt their craft to a public setting. The Uni takes learning public.

\n

There's a difference between the Uni and some other outdoor library projects, like, say, bookmobiles or phone booth libraries; the Uni is deliberately designed to be a place where people gather together and hang out, with chairs for lounging and reading. Because the books can't be checked out, people get the benefit of spending a little extra time with their neighbors. The project designers say part of their intention was to help bring people together to share stories, skills, and local news.

The first Uni installation was in Manhattan in 2011 after a successful Kickstarter campaign, and it's roamed around New York City ever since, most recently in areas heavily impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Last year, the project also sent a Uni abroad to Kazakhstan. In 2013, the team will be working with several organizations in New York to help them set up their own portable reading rooms.

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.

Image by Thena Tak, HY Architecture, courtesy of the Uni Project

Articles
AFP News Agency / Twitter

A study out of Belgium found that smart people are much less likely to be bigoted. The same study also found that people who are bigoted are more likely to overestimate their own intelligence.

A horrifying story out of Germany is a perfect example of this truth on full display: an anti-Semite was so dumb the was unable to open a door at the temple he tried to attack.

On Wednesday, October 9, congregants gathered at a synagogue in Humboldtstrasse, Germany for a Yom Kippur service, and an anti-Semite armed with explosives and carrying a rifle attempted to barge in through the door.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities
via Andi-Graf / Pixabay

The old saying goes something like, "Possessions don't make you happy." A more dire version is, "What you own, ends up owning you."

Are these old adages true or just the empty words of ancient party-poopers challenging you not to buy an iPhone 11? According to a new study of 968 young adults by the University of Arizona, being materialistic only brings us misery.

The study examined how engaging in pro-environmental behaviors affects the well-being of millenials. The study found two ways in which they modify their behaviors to help the environment: they either reduce what they consume or purchase green items.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

One of the biggest obstacles to getting assault weapons banned in the United States is the amount of money they generate.

There were around 10 million guns manufactured in the U.S. in 2016 of which around 2 million were semiautomatic, assault-style weapons. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry's trade association, the U.S. industry's total economic impact in 2016 alone was $51 billion.

In 2016, the NRA gave over $50 million to buy support from lawmakers. When one considers the tens of millions of dollars spent on commerce and corruption, it's no wonder gun control advocates have an uphill battle.

That, of course, assumes that money can control just about anyone in the equation. However, there are a few brave souls who actually value human life over profit.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via Reddit and NASA / Wikimedia Commons

Trees give us a unique glimpse into our past. An examination of tree rings can show us what the climate was like in a given year. Was it a wet winter? Were there hurricanes in the summer? Did a forest fire ravage the area?

An ancient tree in New Zealand is the first to provide evidence of the near reversal of the Earth's magnetic field over 41,000 years ago.

Over the past 83 million years there have been 183 magnetic pole reversals, a process that takes about 7,000 years to complete.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Pixabay

The final episode of "The Sopranos" made a lot of people angry because it ends with mob boss Tony Soprano and his family eating at an ice cream parlor while "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey plays in the background … and then, suddenly, the screen turns black.

Some thought the ending was a dirty trick, while others saw it as a stroke of brilliance. A popular theory is that Tony gets shot, but doesn't know it because, as his brother-in-law Bobby Baccala said, "You probably don't even hear it when it happens, right?"

So the show gives us all an idea of what it's like to die. We're here and then we're not.

Keep Reading Show less
Health