Magazine article World Literature Today

The Pop-Up Libraries of Manhattan

Magazine article World Literature Today

The Pop-Up Libraries of Manhattan

Article excerpt

Community libraries are popping up in unexpected places. John Locke, a New York City-based architect and active critic of the urban experience, is the urban planner behind two phone-booth libraries in Manhattan. He is also the brain behind the Department of Urban Betterment (dub), a fledgling organization conceptualizing and designing unique solutions to the traditional urban planning that's failed us, Locke says, because of culturally irresponsible architecture.

Among DUB's first attempts at a solution, one that tries to "exploit potentially underused streetscape spaces," is a clever set of machine-cut interlocking shelves that turn NYC payphones into community libraries in an attempt to salvage a byproduct of poor urban planning, compel people to interact with their surroundings, strengthen communities and reflect their interests, and ultimately result in more books being read. A well-rounded, flawless solution, right?

But this is New York. What can't be stolen is destroyed, and what can't be destroyed is covered in garbage-or at least peed on. How did this overtly optimistic project fare? The first set of books (provided by Locke and local residents) disappeared in six hours; the shelves disappeared ten days later. …

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