the phone booth library installed by john locke in new york city

on the streets of new york architect john locke has repurposed phone booths into communal libraries or book drops, installing bookshelves within the structures filled with books for residents to take, borrow, or exchange. the phonebooth shown here, ‘DUB 002‘, is part of his ‘department of urban betterment‘ interventionist project.

adopting the same concept as james econs’s ‘phoneboox‘ in the UK, locke’s project consists of a machine-cut and assembled plywood shelf, designed with indents to hang securely to the interior of the phone booth without the need for any additional fasteners. the pay phone and all signage remains completely viewable and operable, nestled within the frame of the bookshelf. installed in manhattan valley and morningside heights, the design is easily replicable in phonebooths throughout the city.

repurposed phone booth library in NYC additional and closer views of the shelving unit

repurposed phone booth library in NYC passersby stop to browse the books

repurposed phone booth library in NYC detail on shelving unit, imprinted with john locke’s insignia for the ‘DUB’ (‘department of urban betterment’)

repurposed phone booth library in NYC construction diagram: milled from a single sheet of plywood, the shelf hangs freely from the phonebooth without the need for additional fasteners

‘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. 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.’ – john locke

all books in the project were donated by local residents. brooklyn-based fabricators kontraptionist milled the plywood for the shelving.

repurposed phone booth library in NYC part of a series of poster graphics designed by locke about the project