Public bookshelves – in NYC phone booths?

Architect John H. Locke has repurposed four New York City phone booths by installing bookshelves.

Martin Meissner/AP
Bookshelves appeared in Cologne, Germany, last fall and were looked after by volunteers like Michael Aubermann (pictured.)

Public bookshelves have come to New York City, courtesy of architect John H. Locke.

Starting last year, Locke has repurposed four New York City phone booths by fitting them with bookshelves. Passers-by are free to borrow or take the books on the shelves as they like. Locke has an acquaintance in Brooklyn cut the shelves and he paints them, then installs them in the pay phone area.

Locke says the shelves remain there for a certain period of time, then vanish.

“It’s a spontaneous thing that just erupts at certain locations,” he said of the shelves in an interview with The New York Times. “People like it, people are inspired by it, but then it disappears again.”

He prefers early mornings for installing the shelves.

“There aren’t a lot of people out,” Locke said. “You can just go down, find a good booth, carry it out, latch it in. It takes seconds.”

Last October, Germany saw various public bookshelves spring up in cities all over the country.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Public bookshelves – in NYC phone booths?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today