"Artist John Locke is converting obsolete Manhattan phone booths into mini libraries. Now if only people would stop stealing his entire book collection."
"The concept, sponsored by Locke's imaginary Department of Urban Betterment, is that New Yorkers will pick up unfamiliar titles while running their errands and then, perhaps, replace them the next day with favorite books of their own. That's in an ideal world. Of the two guerrilla libraries that the artist has fashioned, one has been used properly while the other has had its entire collection repeatedly ganked by sticky-fingered pedestrians. Its shelves were also stolen.
But Locke has many more libraries planned. With plywood consoles that slip over payphones as neatly as aprons, these sidewalk objets are endlessly replicable. (No doubt they'll feature in his 2012 Columbia course, "Hacking the Urban Experience.") I caught up with Locke over the weekend to ask him about what was and wasn't working with these literary outposts, as well as why he started the project in the first place. Here's what he had to say:
Based on your experiments, do you see the public-phone library as a viable concept?
The phone-booth conversions are part of an ongoing experiment that has not been perfected yet. But I think it can be. The response by people who see them and stop and wonder, What the hell is this thing doing here? has been totally positive, and that's enough motivation to keep trying."