In March, a group of New York library officials released a statement declaring that a “staggering infrastructure crisis” has crept up on the city’s public library system. In Brownsville, Brooklyn, one branch is “routinely forced to close on hot days” due to problems with air conditioning. Others are plagued with water-damaged books and facilities that are too small to accommodate everyone in their community.
General interest public libraries are no less necessary than they were in 1901, when Andrew Carnegie donated the equivalent of $147 million to construct 65 of them across New York City, but their focus is increasingly shifting away from books and toward things like English classes, job training workshops, community meeting spaces, or just places to read the news online for those without internet access.
While the public must continue to fight for these more practical resources, a number of oddball independent libraries cropping up around the North American continent offer an experience that can’t be found in their traditional counterparts. These boutique libraries are working to stretch our very idea about the word “library,” creating a real living community around the often very lonely act of reading.
READ MORE: The Rise of DIY Libraries | VICE