The Swapping Bookshelf is an initiative launched last year by architects Irini-Emilia Ioannidou and Eleftherios Ambatzis as an alternative approach to the traditional concept of public libraries.
The concept is pretty simple, though it does rely on users’ honesty: It comprises a booth featuring shelves with transparent doors behind which the books sit. You bring a book, print out a sticker to mark it as up for swapping, and take another book.
It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and requires no subscription or membership fees.
The first Swapping Bookshelf was set up at a central location in the northern Athens suburb of Kifissia in June 2012. The next spot was the Onassis Cultural Foundation on Syngrou Avenue, south of the center. Both proved a hit with the public and one rather surprising thing is that neither has been vandalized or robbed.
Now a Swapping Bookshelf has been set up permanently at Dexameni Square in the central neighborhood of Kolonaki, unveiled on October 19 by Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis.
The exterior of the Kolonaki bookshelf features digital prints of images of old books designed by Antonis Donef, an artist represented by The Breeder Gallery. The Kifissia and Kolonaki bookshelves were built with a donation from construction firm Skrimizeas SA.
Overall, as the Kolonaki opening shows, the concept has been a success.
“Otherwise we wouldn’t continue,” Ambatzis told Kathimerini. “The more people who know what an open-air swapping library is, the more libraries are fulfilling their duty.”