• 09.04.13

Take A Look At New York’s Tiny, Secret Libraries

This summer, New York City got a handful of Little Free Libraries–small book shelters designed to give people a place to congregate–in public spaces across the city.

“The premise of Little Free Library is take-a-book, return-a-book,” explains Ian Veidenheimer of The Architectural League of New York, who helped coordinate the project to bring these tiny libraries to New York. When the project has deployed in other cities, the books are usually guarded by a small “book shelter” in the shape of a bird house, but in New York they gave it a more design-centric treatment.


Since 2009, the Little Free Library project has brought thousands of micro-libraries to towns and cities across the world. This summer, New York City institutions PEN World Voices Festival, a celebration of international literature, and The Architectural League of New York (TALNY), a cultural nonprofit, teamed up to activate the project in public spaces across the city.

Veidenheimer says TALNY reached out to young designers with a request for submission about what the LFL movement means to them. The selected designers were partnered with community organizations across the Lower East Side and East Village that had agreed to host library sites. Over a five-week period, the organizations and designers collaborated to bring a library design to fruition.

The results, according to Veidenheimer, are “all different and wonderful.” He adds that “the libraries function as more than bookshelves” but as an opportunity for people to pause or congregate. Highlights include Forrest Jessee and Brigette Borders of Studio.0’s ]installation at the Abrons Art Center, where bookshelves fit directly into sleek, wood-slat benches and Chat Travieso’s multilingual book shelter, which reads “library” in English, Spanish, and Chinese, depending on which angle you’re looking at it from. All of the designs are open-source so others can recreate the installations in their neighborhoods.

The project officially ended on September 1, but a few community partners have agreed to hold onto the libraries for longer.

About the author

Zak Stone is a Los Angeles-based writer and a contributing editor of Playboy Digital. His writing has appeared in,, Los Angeles, The Utne Reader, GOOD, and elsewhere.