Tiny libraries, expansive outreach


Lauren Thomas

“Tiny Libraries” will remain on State Street until mid-October.

Alexa Highsmith, Staff Writer

Through their most recent project “Tiny Libraries,” the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture explores the idea that literature, learning, and community should not be exclusively accessible. Using vivaciously colored metal structures, these little book exchange centers are shaped as various punctuation marks designed by Douglas Lochner. The local artist was commissioned by Santa Barbara County following an open submission process, which invited any artist living and working in the cities of the Central Coast (including Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo) to apply.

Inspiring the members of the community to participate in this culture of intellectual and fantastical pursuit, the base of each bookshelf dons a clipped informational plaque which reads: “These books are free. Borrow a book. Leave a book. Keep a book.” Wanderers and passersby may do any of these three things: borrow, leave, or keep. The choice is left to the curious mind.

The contents of the bookshelves begin to dwindle withthe coming of the weekend and the excess of intrigued observers, the heft of knowledge being spread like seeds across the wide plain of unassuming readers. Some come to find a conglomeration of college course textbooks that await the broke student yearning to study organic chemistry or microeconomics, while others discover treasured stories of their youth hidden in the crevices of a six-foot-tall royal blue question mark, while still more might find one of the 50 different copies of “Chicken Noodle Soup for the Christian Soul.” Within the scattered shelves are novels, ‘how-to’ manuals, coloring books, poetry — no matter the reader, there is something for everyone. The community opens its hands wide to those searching for words — and waits expectantly for a return of wisdom, for citizens to spread a little more light, for the people to gift the greatest books to those who might otherwise never see the beauty within the pages.

Primarily aiming to unite the community through love of literature, the mini-libraries will hopefully inspire visitors to expand their horizons past their central location of State Street, where they dot the street, to the Santa Barbara Public Library, where there is even more offered in the name of knowledge and exploration.

The project began over the summer, as Lochner constructed his masterpieces in preparation for the installation in late August. The “Tiny Libraries” are still functioning, open now through mid-October, awaiting more visitors. There are six structures in total, ranging in shape from a forest green exclamation point to a bright yellow #hashtag and the symbols can be found resting between De la Guerra and Victoria Street along the main traffic hub on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara.

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