Just read the Design Observer post on little libraries and tactical urbanism. The mammoth post (but well worth reading even if you aren’t a child of a librarian) ends with the UNI project in Boston.
We “started with the space,” Sam Davol said; we “didn’t really have an agenda about books.” Yet their neighbors had been hoping for decades that the Boston Public Library would replace their branch, which had closed in 1956. The Davols saw an opportunity; they found a 3,000-square-foot storefront on Washington Street, partnered with design students at Harvard to create shelving and furniture, drummed up local support and attracted volunteers and accepted donations — and the Chinatown Storefront Library was born in 2009. The group shelved 4,100 books, issued 540 library cards, hosted community meetings and offered innovative programming, including a Drawing Lab and zine-making workshops led by the Papercut Zine Library. Because the space was small and community-focused, and because the Davols were present to oversee the space and the collection, they were able to adapt and improvise. As Sam Davol puts it, “The Storefront Library was R&D” for what came next. Appreciating the potential extendibility, flexibility and portability of their creation — and inspired by the Project for Public Spaces’ call for “lighter, quicker, cheaper” urban development — they hatched an idea for the Uni.
The Davols knew they wanted to create small public spaces for urban neighborhoods, but they weren’t sure what the space would be. Perhaps a portable community center or a library — although they were reluctant to carry or imply the weight of either institutional type. While they wanted to partner with libraries and other public entities, they were reluctant to call themselves a “library.” So they chose the name Urban Neighborhood Institution — or Uni, for short.
The Uni structure consists of 144 open-faced, trapezoidal cubes stackable in various configurations depending upon the site and program; thus far the Uni has been installed at the New Amsterdam Market in Manhattan and at the Brooklyn Book Festival on Borough Hall Plaza. Each 16-inch cube can hold 10 to 15 books, and each is outfitted with a weather-resistant protective cover which, when removed, can double as a bench, a table, a podium, or a display surface. The design is always evolving.
Improvised or ambulatory libraries have a long history. (see Bookmobile) The best examples may be from South America.
Weapon of Mass Instruction (Argentina)