With the rise of e-books challenging public interest in printed matter, some community libraries have scaled down their collections while others are championing physical tomes through unexpected creative endeavors. This summer, micro-libraries will spring up in public spaces in Indianapolis as site-specific works of art, designed by a curated group of local artists. Books will nestle in the hull of a boat-shaped shelf, line the interior of a wooden refrigerator, go mobile on a lego-covered bookcase atop a classic Radio Flyer red wagon, and fill the hollow interior of a large question mark. Developed by artist Rachel M. Simon, the Public Collection aims to make books more available and accessible to all while advocating literacy as a basic human right.
“Unfortunately, illiteracy, lack of access to books, and gaps in education are prevalent in every state of this country,” Simon told Hyperallergic. “I think that housing books inside public art places value on education in a very visual way.” The books, provided by the Indianapolis Public Library, will include diverse selections for readers of all ages, and, like permanent lending libraries, will be freely available.
Designated for Eskenazi Health hospital, Katie Hudnall‘s lending post recalls a boat washed over by the curl of a wave, intended to remind people of the power of books to transport their readers. The graceful, multi-toned structure came together from lumber Hudnall sourced from buildings around Indianapolis and from crates that transported the hospital’s historic art collection from its old location. Along the southeast corridor of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, an eight-mile route already dotted with a range of public works, artist Eric Nordgulen will add his book share structure, “Topiary.” White, vine-like forms weave together, creating nests that support the volumes in an organic structure that itself will wrap around the greenery of the trail. One mile away at White River State Park, woodworker Kimberly McNeelan will install “Evolution of Reading,” a cave-like book-sharing station. Its interior wall features a timeline referencing cave paintings to highlight the historical significance of the written word as a form of communication.
“The concept is to convey the development in reading and writing in our history as a progression, which has resulted in the current goal to make books and information accessible to everyone,” McNeelan wrote.
Other designs are more traditional, keeping the familiar, rigid linearity of a bookshelf and applying it to more playful forms. Tom Torluemke‘s “Cool Books, Food for Thought,” which will stand in the lobby of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, slots titles into the shelves of a wooden refrigerator, complete with a sculpted cat lying above the freezer. Resembling a telephone booth, Brose Partington‘s design at Indianapolis City Market is inspired by agricultural equipment and contains a watermill-like mechanism with books balanced in spokes. Viewers may browse the selection by turning an exterior wheel, picking information “much like food and, as such, harvest knowledge,” as Partington said. By Monument Circle, people may choose tomes from shelves that support a large sculpture of a quote by Mark Twain from 1984: “A public library is the most enduring of memorials, the trustiest monument for the preservation of an event or a name or an affection; for it, and it only, is respected by wars and revolutions, and survives them.” The sculpture’s artist, Brian McCutcheon, chose the area in hopes to bring more foot traffic to it, reflecting the Public Collection’s firm belief that interest in libraries will never fizzle out in spite of our turn to the digital.
“Libraries are sacred institutions, and the value of physical books is timeless,” Simon told Hyperallergic. “The need and desire for physical books and libraries will always exist.”