ATG Book of the Week: Improbable Libraries: A Visual Journey to the World’s Most Unusual Libraries

improbable librariesTitle: Improbable Libraries: A Visual Journey to the World’s Most Unusual Libraries
Author: Alex Johnson
Cloth ISBN: 9780226263694, $27.50
Imprint: Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2015.

How do you use your local library? Does it arrive at your door on the back of an elephant? Can it float down the river to you? Or does it occupy a phone booth by the side of the road?

Public libraries are a cornerstone of modern civilization, yet like the books in them, libraries face an uncertain future in an increasingly digital world. Undaunted, librarians around the globe are thinking up astonishing ways of reaching those in reading need, whether by bike in Chicago, boat in Laos, or donkey in Colombia. Improbable Libraries showcases a wide range of unforgettable, never-before-seen images and interviews with librarians who are overcoming geographic, economic, and political difficulties to bring the written word to an eager audience. Alex Johnson charts the changing face of library architecture, as temporary pop-ups rub shoulders with monumental brick-and-mortar structures, and many libraries expand their mission to function as true community centers. To take just one example: the open-air Garden Library in Tel Aviv, located in a park near the city’s main bus station, supports asylum seekers and migrant workers with a stock of 3,500 volumes in sixteen different languages.

Beautifully illustrated with two hundred and fifty color photographs, Improbable Libraries offers a breathtaking tour of the places that bring us together and provide education, entertainment, culture, and so much more. From the rise of the egalitarian Little Free Library movement to the growth in luxury hotel libraries, the communal book revolution means you’ll never be far from the perfect next read.

(Here is an extract from book that appeared in The Guardian as author Alex Johnson looks at the imaginative forms the modern library takes)

Review

“Fascinating. . . . A valuable visual culture book that doubles as a travel resource.”

(Los Angeles Times)

 

“Stunning.”

(Maclean’s)

 

“Spirited.”

(San Francisco Chronicle)

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