Indianapolis Goes Big with Little Free Libraries

Book share station at Monument Circle. Photo by Brian McCutcheon

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While some Little Free Libraries are attention-grabbing theme projects made by master craftspeople, most of them are—true to their name—small and humble little book exchanges that individuals build and steward. But the city of Indianapolis has gone big on little libraries, with a series of artist-designed book share stations.

Dubbed the Public Collection, the project is a partnership between artists and public libraries. The book share stations, which are found in parks, homeless shelters, and other public spaces around town, are part art installation, and part Little Free Library.

The stations are created by local artists, and stocked with books donated by the Indianapolis Public Library. The stations are open to all and patrons are invited to take a book and pass it along, or return it to any of the Public Collection stations.

The share station at Indianopolis' Cultural Trail. Photo by Eric Nordgulen

The project goes far beyond the distribution of books. As the project website states, “The Public Collection increases access to books through the use of functional pieces of art in familiar settings. The initiative’s goals are to improve literacy, foster a deeper appreciation of the arts, and raise awareness for education and social justice in the community.”

The share station inside Horizon House, a day center serving the homeless population in Indianapolis. Photo by Stuart Hyatt & S+Ca

With no library staff on-hand, no library cards, and no due dates, the project is very much an exercise in public space and barrier-free engagement.

“There are no barriers when you walk up to one of these,” Public Collection founder, Rachel Simon, told CityLab. “It’s coming to the people, instead of expecting people to come to the art.”

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