“There are 13,659 payphones on NYC sidewalks, even though there are over 17 million cell phones,” reads a poster designed by New York architect John Locke. Seeing an opportunity for creative reuse and community building, Designboom writes, Locke is turning obsolete phone booths into mini libraries.
Passersby are encouraged to take a book or leave a book from the improvised bibliothecas, which are reminiscent of the Little Free Libraries born in Wisconsin or the Phoneboox found in the UK. Locke hopes the tiny metro libraries, part of his Department of Urban Betterment project, will encourage an increased sense of local camaraderie, he says via email: “More people in the neighborhood sharing, talking, and just having a heightened awareness and sense of engagement with their surroundings.”
So far, two phone booths have been converted, and Locke dreams of them taking over the city. “I want these to be cheap, fast, and easily reproducible. Ubiquity is the goal. The only costs are minimal—the price of lumber and time on a CNC cutting machine. After that, the shelves slot together and slide right into the booths with no hardware or fasteners required.”
The little phone booth libraries marry whimsy and practicality in every way. Nestled between used copies of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Middlesex, the existing payphone remains fully functional—just in case one of those 17 million cell phones runs out of juice.
Images courtesy of John Locke.
Margret Aldrich is an associate editor at Utne Reader. Follow her on Twitter at @mmaldrich.