Contradicting the notion that books are only found in bookstores and brick and mortar libraries, people are creating all kinds of clever ways to share books on the go. From book bicycles and camels to DIY bookmobiles, mobile libraries are a great way to connect people and grow communities around a love of reading.
Here are 7 of our favorite mobile libraries. Some of them were temporary projects and some are still going strong. They all captured our attention and inspire us to read more and share more.
Los Angeles librarian Ednita Kelly takes books to the streets with her Book Bike, a three-wheeled bike that carries 250 pounds of books. To date, Kelly has given away over 5,000 books.
A retired school teacher in southern Italy named Antonio De Cava created the Bibliomotocarro, a mobile library that holds 700 books. A charismatic fellow who’s greeted with cheers of excitement when he pulls up into a village, De Cava travels over 500 kilometers to deliver books to the children. His motivation: a love of books and a desire to get them into the hands of young people.
Colombian grade school teacher Luis Soriano didn’t take weekends off. Instead, he loaded up his donkeys and took books to the children of Magdalena Province, a poor and violence-ridden area. Braving armed bands, drug traffickers, snakes and heat, Soriano delivered books in an effort to inspire a better future for Colombia.
The BiebBus in the Netherlands is a fantastic, expanding library that houses 7,000 books on the bottom level and has a transparent-bottom reading room for children – crafted from a repurposed shipping container – on top. The brainchild of Den Hollander, the library is built on a truck trailer so it can easily move from village to village, serving 20 primary schools that aren’t able to afford a library of their own.
The brainchild of Bay Area school librarian Alicia Tapia, Bibliobicicleta is a free, mobile library pulled by bike. A frequent sight at parks, farmers markets, museums, and beaches, the mobile library distributes 100 free books at a time to help spread a love of reading among people of all ages, lifestyles and interests.
Dashdondog Jamba has devoted his life to serving children by reading, writing, translating, publishing and transporting books to them all over Mongolia. And there’s a twist: his method of delivery, the Children’s Mobile Library, is a camel – or sometimes an ox cart, horses or, more recently, a van. Serving children in the remote regions of the Gobi desert, Jamba and his library – which his wife and son help him with – have traveled over 50,000 miles through every province of Mongolia.
The Book Tank is a free, mobile library built from a 1979 Ford Falcon that carries 900 books and elicits laughter, joy and gratitude as it rolls by. Dubbed a “weapon of mass instruction” by its designer, Buenos Aires artist Raul Lemesoff, the tank brings brings a free book to any Argentinian who promises to read it.
• Cat Johnson is a writer and content strategist covering collaboration, the commons, community and the future of work. Publications include Yes! Magazine, Utne Reader, GOOD, Shareable, Triple Pundit, LaunchableMag, and Lifehacker.