This post was originally published in June 2013. 

We’re welcoming Amanda Meeks back to the Incubator this week; today Amanda writes about one of the nicest pop-up programs I’ve ever seen – the Read/Write Library’s BiblioTreka (formerly known as the Chicago Book Bike)! ~ Laura

by Amanda Meeks

The BiblioTreka, packed up and ready to roll.

The BiblioTreka, packed up and ready to roll.

Chicago’s Read/Write Library collects every type of media from the area, now including a cargo bike with quite the track record of community engagement.  We’ve adopted the Chicago Book Bike in order to preserve it as a cultural artifact and Chicago icon as well as to further the mission of the library by using it to provide pop-up library and outreach services throughout the summer months.

In July of 2008, Gabriel Levinson began the Chicago Book Bike project.  His vision was to offer free new and used books to the general public because “everyone has the right to build and cherish a private library”.  Working with Haley Tricycles in Philadelphia, Gabriel collaborated to design the front-loading, cargo bike that would help him place thousands of books into the hands of Chicago community members over the next few years.  He took the Book Bike to parks and free events each weekend and the project became well-known and loved throughout the city.  When he relocated to Austin, TX last year he was disheartened to find that no individuals or organizations were able to keep the project rolling.  Thus, Book Bike came to a screeching halt.

Early this year, when I took on the role of outreach coordinator at the Read/Write Library, I suggested we look into acquiring a bicycle for pop-up library services.  Others became excited by the idea but there was one wrench in the works: Money–we’d need to fundraise a lot of it.  I started researching costs and options.  Using social media, I crowdsourced ideas from the bike community about custom-built bicycles in the area and many mentioned the Book Bike.  After connecting with Gabriel on twitter, inquiring how he started his project and explaining what we hoped to do with a bike at Read/Write, he generously offered to loan us the Book Bike since it had been unused since his move and was still stored in Chicago.

Setting up the BiblioTreka at a pop-up location in Chicago.

Setting up the BiblioTreka at a pop-up location in Chicago.

We’ve agreed to adopt the bike and return it to Gabriel should we stop using it for its intended purpose, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.  As of May 2013, the bike has been painted, tuned up, and renamed the Read/Write BiblioTreka.  We’re gearing up for a summer of pop-up libraries at local art and music venues (such as Comfort Station), farmer’s markets, community gardens, and any other free or low-cost community-oriented events by training a team of volunteers to safely drive BiblioTreka.  As with our traditional pop-up library services, we curate a sampling of our materials to match the needs of the events or organizations with whom we’re partnering, only we’ve put a new spin on the old model by arriving by bicycle.

BiblioTreka transformed into the pop-up library.

BiblioTreka transformed into the pop-up library.

Updates about where the bike will be each week are available on the Read/Write Twitter and Facebook pages.  To inquire further about BiblioTreka and our pop-up services, please email outreach@readwritelibrary.org.

Read Amanda’s feature on Chicago’s Read/Write Library here on the Incubator Project.

Amanda Meeks is a recent graduate of Emporia State University’s SLIM program in Portland, OR and the Read/Write Library’s outreach coordinator.  For more information about the library, events, and volunteering please email her at outreach@readwritelibrary.org

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