Is the Payphone an Anachronism or an Opportunity?


If you were walking down the streets of New York in Manhattan Valley or Morningside Heights, you might be lucky enough to happen upon one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time…

Architect John Locke has repurposed phone booths into communal libraries based off of the “take a book, leave a book” principle.  He’s taken guerilla librarianship to the next level, quietly installing these structures and outfitting them with donated books from local residents, ready for other residents and passerbys to take, borrow and exchange whatever they wish from the fluid collection.

These phone booths are part of a larger plan, his ‘Department of Urban Betterment‘ interventionist project.  Check out the link to learn more…

So what are the details on these structures, you may ask?  They’re nothing but machine-cut and assembled plywood shelves, designed to hang securely inside the phone booth without any additional fasteners, leaving the signage on the phone booth visible and the phone itself completely operable.

Here’s what Locke has to say:

Even as they are rendered obsolete by the ubiquity of smartphones, I’m interested in pay phones because they are both anachronistic and quotidian. Relics, they’re dead technology perched on the edge of obsolescence, a skeuomorph hearkening back to a lost shared public space we might no longer have any use for. Something to be nostalgic for, in the way I can’t think about a phone booth without conjuring up images of an old, impatient woman banging on the door to one while I was inside using a calling card to ask for money. And of course they are nuisance, basically pedestrian level billboards that only blight certain neighborhoods (good luck finding a payphone in Tribeca, while there are eight separate phone kiosks on one block between 108th and 109th streets and Columbus Ave). But they can also be a place of opportunity, something to reprogram and somewhere to come together and share a good book with your neighbors.

(all images courtesy of the rock star himself, Mr. Locke)
So what do you think, people?  Anachronism or opportunity?  This librarian here says opportunity and eagerly awaits more iterations of Locke’s parasite library.
~Ashley Moye~

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Filed under Books & Stuff, Hidden Treasures, Librarians Can Be Fun Too

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