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6 Guerrilla Libraries, From Shanghai’s Subway To A Retrofitted Phone Booth
August 29, 2013
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A Little Free Library in Toronto (Photo: Courtesy Alex Pietrowski)

In an age when so much of the text we read is on flashing screens, there's something appealing about underground, alternative and guerrilla libraries stocked with actual paper-and-ink books — which is probably why they keep coming up on Strombo.com. The most recent example: a lending library for commuters on Line Two of the Shanghai Metro, one of the busiest subway systems in the world.

6. Shanghai's Subway System Joins The Guerrilla Library Movement

The Shanghai metro library is a welcome relief from the system's digital TV screens(Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
The program is a partnership between a bookstore, an online learning company and the Metro line itself. Passengers can pick up a book at any station and drop it off at any other station, all on the honour system (although a small charitable donation is encouraged).

A trial version of the program launched a few months ago, and was a near-instant success, with book lovers queueing up during rush hour to grab something to read on the way to work.

"You can't force people to read by regulations, but it is sensible to encourage people to read," Huang Yuning, head of the literature department at Shanghai Translation Publishing House, told China Daily.

Here are some other guerrilla libraries that have appeared on Strombo.com over the years:

5. The Underground Library: An Idea To Create A Virtual Book Shelf For The Subway

Three students from Brooklyn came up with this concept for a virtual bookshelf that could be installed on subway trains. The shelf is actually an interactive video screen which riders could approach, swiping their smartphones across to download the first 10 pages of their chosen book (this would use Near-Field Communication, since Wi-Fi and cell service is spotty underground). If they like their preview, the riders could then head over to their local public library to pick up a real copy.

4. The House Of Books: This Guy Turned His Home Into A Public Library

Manilla resident Hernando Guanlao decided to pay tribute to his late parents' love of reading by turning his home into a lending library. He started by placing a collection of less than a hundred books outside his door, to see if anyone was interested. Twelve years later, he's amassed thousands of titles, and even inspired others in the Philippines to start their own home libraries.

3. Take A Book, Leave A Book: The Little Free Library
A Little Free Library in Toronto (Photo: Courtesy Alex Pietrowski)

Like Hernando Guanlao's Manilla library-in-a-home, the Little Free Library movement also began as a memorial to a book-loving parent. Since he started it in 2009, Todd Bol's tiny library-in-a-boxes have spread throughout the world, including Canada. These little lending libraries operate on a very small scale, with neighbours stopping by to drop off and pick up their favourites.

2. Small, But Full Of Stories: The Mini Library Helps Readers Recover After Hurricane Sandy

(Photo: Urban Libraries Unite)
Among the many closures caused by Hurriance Sandy were libraries across New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. In response to all that unmet book borrowing demand, an organization called Urban Libraries Unite set up orange newspaper boxes stuffed with about 100 each.

1. Hello? Is It Books You're Looking For?
A retrofitted phone booth in Marton cum Grafton, England (Photo: REUTERS/Nigel Roddis)

In the age of the cell phone, phone booths are often little-used relics. In England and the U.S., however, some of them have been craftily repurposed as lending libraries. In New York, architect John Locke designed plywood shelving units which slip inside public phone boxes, and in several U.K. cities, like Marton cum Grafton, the phone has been replaced entirely with shelves upon shelves of books.


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