Outdoor Libraries

Take a book, leave a book. In an effort to promote literacy and reading, “free-for-all” libraries are popping up in Germany. These small outdoor bookshelves, placed on street corners, city squares, and in supermarkets, are financed by donations and cared for by local volunteer groups.

In these free-for-all libraries, people can grab whatever they want to read, and leave behind books for others to read. There’s no need to register, no due date, and you can take or give as many as you want.

Most of these outdoor library bookshelves (they have glass doors to keep the books dry in inclement weather) in Germany hold around 200 books and it takes about six weeks for a complete turnover, with all the old titles replaced by new ones.

Interestingly, organizers of one free-for-all library shelf in Cologne, Germany, report that they have had few problems with vandalism or other kinds of abuse. The few they have experienced include a used-book seller scooping up every volume on a shelf to sell at a flea market and the shelves being stacked with material from a religious group.

I think these public library bookshelves are a fascinating idea. They are a wonderful way for sharing books. I would use one if there was one near my neighborhood. Would you?

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