Public Bookcases Make Every Day World Book Day
Enlarge image Open bookshelves like this one in Frankfurt are attracting a lot of attention from passers by. (© picture alliance / dpa) Parallel worlds among readers: on the one hand there is the trend towards the digital ebook; on the other, a very down-to-earth and tangible book-exchange scene has become established in German cities – with pearls of literature, trashy novels, thrillers and dictionaries available in public bookshelves. These freely accessible mini-libraries are installed in decommissioned phone boxes or old car trailers. But most frequently they really are tall, narrow cabinets – lockable, but never locked. In principle, anyone can choose a book at any time and leave another one in its place. No one checks, but it evidently works.
Enlarge image (© picture alliance / ZB) Public bookshelves are not an entirely new idea, but their numbers have been increasing noticeably in recent years. They are usually the work of private initiatives – some in favor of resource sharing, others that want to promote the cultural revitalization of inner cities and residential areas.
In Magdeburg an entire building has been set aside for use as a public bookcase. The “Salbke Bookmark” is a combination of freely accessible bookshelf, event stage and noise-reduction project. It won a major European architecture award – the European Prize for Urban Public Space – in 2010. In Berlin‘s trendy Prenzlauer Berg district there is even a “Forest of Books”: five hollowed-out tree trunks with bookshelves. The German National Commission for UNESCO awarded the project a prize when it opened.