Libraries are awesome. The sharing of information and a free access to thought through books is invaluable to any place. Which is why libraries have popped up in some of the strangest places. From a forgotten cemetery, to a burro’s back, to a repurposed tank, these are three of the most unexpected libraries that are making real change in their communities.
The Jewish Cemetery Library
The library in 2007 (via Wikimedia)
The Jüdischer Friedhof Krems was almost completely obliterated under the Third Reich, and it wasn’t until 1995 that the Jewish Cemetery in Krems, Austria was restored. Part of its revival to public mind was a library. Created by artists Michael Clegg and Martin Guttmann in 2004, the Open Public Library invites visitors to borrow or add books to its three shelves, but it’s as much a memorial sculpture.
As Guttmann explained, the library means that the place that belonged to a community that was destroyed doesn’t have to be abandoned in silence, and “in order to put life into it you really need a special kind of involvement, and sometimes art can really bring [that] with it.” Near the library is an over 140-foot band inscribed with 129 names of the Jews who were killed or driven out of Krems.
A Biblioburro and Luis Soriano journeying in Colombia (via Wikimedia)
Teacher Luis Soriano saw what a difference reading made to his students in La Gloria, Colombia, and he decided to bring books to the rest of the Department of Magdalena. His mode of transport, and the library itself, was the backs of his donkeys Beto and Alfa.
While the Biblioburros started small, the donations soon packed Soriano’s house and his reach expanded in the economically downtrodden area plagued with drug trafficking. He was even profiled in a 2011 PBS documentary, Biblioburro: The Donkey Library, showing his furry hoofed library bringing essential texts on medicine, novels, and piles of children’s books.
Arma de Instruccion Masiva
The tank library in Buenos Aires in 2008 (photograph by Carlos Adampol Galindo)
In the 1970s and early ’80s the streets of Buenos Aires were often places of conflict under a militaristic state. Artist Raul Lemesoff decided to transform one of the popular vehicles for the military — a 1979 Ford Falcon — into what he calls a “contribution to peace through literature.”
The Arma de Instruccion Masiva (Weapon of Mass Instruction) has the form of a tank, but is covered in books that are free for the taking. While its path has mostly been in Buenos Aires, it’s also cruised into more rural areas where access to books is limited.
Find more of the world’s incredible libraries on Atlas Obscura.