How Cooperatives Are Driving the New Economy: Culture Shift

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Love Your Books? 4 Ways to Share Them With Others

From mobile libraries to tiny libraries, how to get others to read the books you love.

Apr 23, 2013

1. Send your books on a journey

Books introduce us to fascinating strangers; they take us to places we would never visit alone. So why not send them out into the world, to share stories with new readers? Better yet, why not follow their adventures? That’s the idea behind BookCrossing. Put a tracking label on your book, leave it in a public place, and wait to see where it turns up next. The labels encourage new readers to release the books they find, and to enter where they found them on the website: train stations, park benches, and cafes across the globe. Part social networking, part world library, connects book lovers, anonymously, to the pleasure of sharing a good book with a stranger.

2. Make your library mobile

Most public libraries make a point of giving away books that have been withdrawn from circulation. But two Portland women have a new spin on library outreach with Street Books, their bicycle-powered mobile library. Using what looks like an ice cream cart, Street Books brings a fresh rotation of great books to people who live in Portland’s streets and parks. Patrons do not need to provide an ID or proof of address, and they return their books on an honor system. Readers are invited to submit book reviews and share stories from the road on

Mobile libraries vary according to the countries they’re found in. The coastal town of Port Philip, Australia, keeps a lending wheelbarrow traveling down its beach during summer months. In Colombia, grade school teacher Luis Soriano brings a children’s library to remote villages on the backs of his two donkeys, Alfa and Beto. His Biblioburro project serves children inland from the Caribbean coast, and the idea has been adopted in other regions of Colombia.

3. Build a tiny library

The Little Free Library movement inspires bibliophiles to plant bookshelves in unexpected places: on front lawns, city sidewalks, against tree trunks and beside bus shelters. These colorful handmade libraries, as small as mailboxes or as large as vending machines, invite neighbors and passersby to browse and borrow, lend, and linger. Some of the boxes are rustic, while others are whimsical. Some repurpose containers like newspaper dispensers or reuse materials like old license plates. Many are supplied with a reading bench, and all are free to anyone. No check-outs required.

Todd Bol built the first of these libraries in Wisconsin as a tribute to his late mother, a librarian. People loved it, so Bol and a friend started a web site,, to help people build their own libraries. Aspirants can find instructions on building, weatherproofing, and mounting libraries. They can also read about the movement’s goals: to promote literacy, the love of reading, and a sense of community. And to build more than 2,510 (tiny) libraries around the world—more than Andrew Carnegie!

4. Have a book exchange party

Introduce friends to good books, and each other, by throwing a book exchange party. Set the tone with party decorations and treats on a literary theme: giant letters, book banners, quotation cakes. Ask guests to bring a wrapped book to exchange. The names of givers and recipients are picked out of a hat, and the book swap, which can involve several exchanges, begins.

Talking about books provides an icebreaker at parties for adults. And a simple book exchange for children (bring one, take one) is a break from the usual emphasis on presents and party favors.

Signe Predmore
Fabien Tepper
Fabien Tepper is a freelance animal policy journalist, translator, painter, pedicab driver, and dog walker based in Boston.