“Books. People never really stop loving books,” said the Doctor in BBC’s hit show Doctor Who. In this episode, the Doctor and his companion travel hundreds of years into the future to the universe’s biggest library and find that, even in the future, we still love reading and sharing knowledge and ideas. And those people who love libraries and love reading also love sharing these books with others so that the awesome stories can continue to be read for hundreds years more. And what is the best twenty–first century way to share a great book with others? With an Awesome Box, of course.
A project by the Harvard Library Innovation Lab allows library patrons to share the most recent awesome book they’ve read. The Awesome Box is a literal box that libraries put out, and when a patron has deemed a book awesome, they place it into the Awesome Box instead of the typical area designated for returns. Then, librarians scan the book twice: once to check it back in, and once to scan it to the Awesome project website, where anyone interested can view the Recently Awesome books.
So far, several libraries now have an Awesome Box. Taking this one step farther, the Brookline Public Library in Massachusetts has even turned their Awesome Box into a TARDIS. The spaceship TARDIS (which is short for “Time and Relative Dimension in Space”) from Doctor Who is shaped like a blue police box from the 1960s and is much bigger on the inside, allowing the Doctor and his companion to travel all over time and space. During their journeys, they learn about the wonders of the universe—much like the teachings offered by books.
Robin Brenner, librarian at the Brookline Public Library, worked with builders and used donated materials to create this unique Awesome Box. The Awesome Box is painted to look like the Doctor’s TARDIS and is complete with book–related phrases from the show. The box also has wheels so that the box can be moved around the library. While the Awesome Box may be a great way for kids to get into reading, Brenner says that it is for children and adults alike to share the books they love with others.
The Awesome Box is a great way to collectively keep track of the books that we love; hundreds of years from now, people reading books—in whatever form books might take—will know which ones from the twenty–first century were truly awesome.
Did You Know?
Though public libraries are often a feature of major cities and towns around the world, there was a time when there were far less libraries. Often, rural or poor areas didn’t have them; to help with this problem, mobile libraries, or bookmobiles, were created.
One of the earliest records of mobile libraries is from the UK in 1857. Called the Perambulating Library, this mobile library was created by George Moore and consisted of a cart filled with books that was pushed through eight villages. The Perambulating Library would lend books to those who had a “Member’s Card,” which represented a paid subscription.
Possibly the first bookmobile in the United States originated in Chester County, South Carolina, in 1903. The Chester Country Free Library, opened with donations by Dr. Delano S. Fitzgerald, offered the People’s Free Library as a mobile service. Dr. Fitzgerald came to the area to hunt during wintertime and wanted to give something in return for the hospitality of the county’s residents. In addition to opening the small permanent library, he hired a local farmer to make 22 stops on a monthly basis using wooden boxes in a mule–drawn cart.
Today, there are hundreds of bookmobiles across the United States as well as the world. One of the more unusual North American bookmobiles is the Mobilivre Bookmobile, which travels across the United States and Canada and features a vintage Airstream trailer that holds about 300 books. Another unique bookmobile, the Camel Mobile Library Service, caters to Kenya’s poor and travels across the country’s North East Province by camel.