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The Book Truck: Mobile Library Hits Mexico City's Streets

In Mexico City, a mobile library on a freight truck totes around 1500 books on visual art and culture to bring contemporary art into public dialogue.

Following the explosion of food truck popularity, it’s no longer a surprise to see hearth-baked pizza, ice cream-topped waffles, or even organic vegetables emerge from inside a four-wheeled vehicle. But a new project in Mexico City adds even more variation to the truck's creative resume, by placing less of a gastronomic and more of an intellectual spin on the word “taste.”

Local arts nonprofit Alumnos47 has converted a Freightliner M2 20K truck into a 215 square-foot mobile library with the capacity for 1,500 books on visual art and culture. Designed by architecture firm PRODUCTORA, this bibliophile's dream emerged out of a project the foundation was working on for years: a brick and mortar public library in the San Miguel Chapultepec neighborhood, specializing in contemporary art. When the team realized that the main library would take roughly three more years to become a reality, they decided to take their book collection to the streets.

"Mobile libraries are not new in history," says Citlali López Maldonado, the Mobile Library Coordinator at Alumnos47. In fact, the project is a nod to Mexico's educational roots. "Public education programs in Mexico began with mobile libraries in rural communities. Nowadays we can see many examples of them in Latin America, Spain and the United States, as well."

By driving the mobile art library throughout various neighborhoods in the capital for two months at a time, Alumnos47 hopes to spark conversation and an appreciation for contemporary art with a curated selection of books for the public. "The purpose," according to Maldonado, "is not just to bring books to citizens into public space but to take out contemporary art products from their common places of consumption, such as galleries and restricted libraries."

Wherever it stops, the truck hosts a mix of workshops, seminars, and special events, relying on an interchangeable design to take advantage of every inch of space. Books are stacked on overhead trays to free up the main floor for events, allow a seamless transition from library to cultural center. Future events will include audiovisual presentations, book readings, and artist talks. Coloring and performance workshops make kids feel at home. Though visitors are not yet allowed to check out the books to take home, the truck takes the mold of a reading room, welcoming patrons to take books outside the truck, find a nice spot to read, and listen to music courtesy of the truck's speakers.

The truck currently rests in downtown Mexico City, after visiting art schools, music festivals, and cultural centers. Its plans include going east next, visiting the Iztapalapa neighborhood and Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl, and the goal is to make it a permanent project.

"People love the truck. They get very impressed about the inside space, the book collection and the possibilities it offers for finding images, book reading and getting acquainted with contemporary art," Maldonado says. "Mexico City has a huge cultural offering that we intend to be a part of so that people from the neighborhoods get accustomed to see our truck full of art books."


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