The tender thread that binds people via the dissemination of knowledge, floating libraries and bookstores are not a new invention. They have been around for centuries, navigating through canals and lakes that are a lifeline for locals of any region.
Often birthed through the need for accessibility, floating libraries have emerged as an essential component of the culture, a continued tradition for some, a warm memory for others.
The Floating Library, Minnesota
Designed to be an interactive art project begun by Sarah Peters, the Floating Library aboard a raft wading through the lakes of Minnesota functions as a platform for some unique reading exchange. Apart from the collections it houses contributed by international patrons and steadily replenished by open calls and volunteership, you will find that the project is an ode to book art, including intriguing printed work like zines, pamphlets etc.
Cultivating a sacred culture of floating libraries, this one organizes workshops, events and reading rituals on board while cruising through the land of lakes, often led by an artist-in-residence and accessible by rowboats, canoes and kayaks.
This mobile library aboard the Lilac Museum Steamship was a collaborative initiative of artist Beatrice Glow in 2014. This public art project undertook installations and conversions to set up a reading lounge, a listening room with an impressive range of reading material amassed through donations and volunteering.
With special art installations, round-table discussions, performances and workshops, this floating book heaven was a dream of a literary experience. As part of the Lilac Restoration Project, this pop-up emerged to create a public space for engagement and community effort on the waters of the Hudson River in New York City.
MV Logos Ship
The MV Logos Hope, launched in 1973, is now famed as the world’s largest floating library and bookstore. Renovated for this purpose in 2009, it houses some 6,000 books and is currently owned by GBA Ships- a company that has had three other ship libraries, namely The MV Doulos, The Logos and The Logos II.
The MV Logos Hope, said to have visited over 150 countries, is on a mission to be a vessel of education and enjoyment, providing the wonderful joy of reading in even the remotest parts and to those not privileged with bookstores in their areas.
Book Boats of the Erie Canal
The Erie Canal, opened in 1825, is a waterway stretching from the Hudson River in Albany to Lake Erie in Buffalo that facilitated transportation of goods and contributed to New York becoming a commercial powerhouse. Book boats were a familiar sight here in the 19th century, as captured beautifully in the picture book The Book Boat’s In by Cynthia Cotten.
Declared a National Heritage Corridor, the canal is now primarily a tourist attraction whose history you can have an immersive experience of in the Erie Canal Museum that houses various collections and events.
Bokbåten- Weaving together the remote islands of the Stockholm archipelago, the Swedish bokbåten, which first set sail in 1953, aims to make reading a democratized activity and not a luxury. Making rounds twice a year and lending its 3,000 books for a period of six months, is perhaps the oldest book boat in Scandinavia.
With fundings from the Regional Library, the bokbåten is eagerly awaited by the residents of 23 islands who are no more inconvenienced by the lack of local libraries or the limited resources of the available ones and not forced to make long trips.
Epos- The floating library service in Norway began in 1959 while Epos, the current library ship, was brought into service in 1963. With space onboard for about 6,000 books and said to lend out nearly 20,000 books to residents of 3 counties.
Setting sail from September to April, the Epos is a beacon of hope in the middle of bleak winters when reading becomes an important hobby to pass the time. It also conducts musical and theatrical performances and reading sessions for quality entertainment.
As hazardous a recipe as paper and water might sound together, floating libraries are the embodiment of human will and desire to learn and conquer limitations set by nature. We encourage you to explore books on sail near you and share with us your information about floating libraries trotting the globe, allowing your reading experience to undergo a sea change (literally).