Why everyone should embrace the micro-library trend

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Anna Brech
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In an age where we’re all disappearing behind our screens, micro-libraries bring people together in the real world

We hear a lot about fractured communities these days.

Libraries are closing down. Loneliness is an epidemic, both among the old and the young. We spend more time on our phones than we do with other people.

But one thing reversing this drive towards isolation is the rise of micro-libraries.

A phone box library

Create your own improvised reading nook

According to a new report in the Financial Times, micro-libraries are booming right now, with pop-up dens providing unexpected joy to book-lovers around the world.

These improvised book nooks “have long opening hours, are convenient, cheap, self-sustaining, open to all, foster community spirit and capture our imaginations”, says the paper.

Not only that, but they reinvent redundant spaces (think the classic red phone box), or bring new life to existing ones (for example, pubs or railway stations). 

Although micro-libraries can be inspired by larger organisations such as the Little Free Library (above), the effort behind them is personal, often coming down to a few key individuals.

And so, they become a rallying point for the community: a reason to give, take and connect with other people through the simple joy of reading.

Whether they are set up with an honesty box for charity or operate via a basic trading system, micro-libraries encourage a spirit of altruism and trust which becomes self-fulfilling.

“The turnover of books is completely down to the public,” Kieron Mallon, the town councillor behind a pop-up library in Banbury, tells the FT.

“They’ll walk into town with a couple of books under their arm, put a few in there, have a look, see if there’s anything they fancy and, if they do, they’ll take it out — you know, it ticks over.” 

 The same is true of an impromptu library space at Arsenal tube station (above).

Local customers “really own” the space, says TfL manager Mike Mainguard, and within three days of staff setting it up, the shelves were full of books.

And let’s not forget that micro-libraries also recall the physical pleasure of reading as a shared experience.

At a time when independent bookshops face unprecedented threat, this becomes more important than ever.

So, if you’re committed bookworm, maybe think beyond the great and the grand when it comes to reading havens.

Some of the world’s finest libraries are wonderful places, but their makeshift sisters are just as good.

Could you too become a pop-up library architect? 

All you need is a bit of free space - the rest is down to you and your imagination.

Images: Getty, Instagram


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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.