John H. Locke, a Manhattan architectural designer, has found a unique use for NYC phone booths: turn them into libraries.
With the advent of cell phones and smart phones, the use of public telephones has taken a nosedive in recent years but 13,000 still remain on city streets. In July, the Department of Information Techonology and Telecommunications began soliciting the public for ideas of what to do with the remaining booths once contracts expire in 2014.
Mr. Locke is not interested in the city’s initiative, however, but started the project to repurpose the pay phones to benefit city communities. He designed a custom set of bookshelves to fit inside the Titan brand of kiosks last winter. The bookshelves are lightweight and have hooks that allow them to be snapped into place without the use of any hardware. A fabricator in Brooklyn cuts the shelves and Mr. Locke paints, assembles, and intalls them himself. Once he snaps a bookshelf into place, he stocks it with a variety of books and then waits to see what happens. The whole installation process only takes about five minutes.
Four pay phone libraries have been installed thus far. The first was empty in a few days and another lasted a month. One even saw people adding their own books to the shelves. “It’s a spontaneous thing,” Mr. Locke said. “People like it, people are inspired by it, but then it disappears again.”
Mr. Locke has been approached by publishers, bookstores, and neighbors who have offered to donate books for future installations. He hopes that people will hear about the idea and be inspired to install pay phone libraries in their own neighborhoods, and the plans to build one of these custom shelves are available on his website. Mr. Locke’s project is being featured in Spontaneous Interventions: design actions for the common good, which is the theme of the U.S. Pavilion at the 13th International Venice Architecture Biennale.
Here’s a video about Mr. Locke’s project.
Superman, Grab a Book [NY Times]