There is something magical about being in a bookstore or a library. It’s like entering a different, more adventurous world.
The same happens the moment you enter the ship. Suddenly, when you lose contact with the ground, all the little down-to-earth problems disappear.
Imagine you are in both places at the same time.
There are exciting stories of turning an old barge into a bookstore as an escape plan and a way of living. You’ve heard about Word on the Water or The Book Barge, right?
However, the idea of the floating books is not only created out of the sheer passion. Some of the examples below show the passion and duty – just like the mobile libraries.
In Scandinavia, public libraries use boats as mobile libraries, because it’s more convenient to reach distant places by water than land. There are decent boats that bring library books to children in rural regions of Laos. Or a huge bookstore on a former ferry that visits ports all over the world.
We’re sure we’ve found a vast majority of the floating libraries and bookshops, but if we missed any, please correct us in the comments.
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9 captivating bookshops and libraries on the water
1. Water and Dreams bookshop
Water and Dreams (in French: L’eau et les rêves) is a wonderful bookstore barge that you can visit in Paris. You can find and buy here both new and second-hand books. Most of them are related to maritime topics and travels.
Inside this magical boat, you will see rows of wooden bookshelves and many original sailing props, including navigation instruments.
Water and Dreams is a lively place. Besides offering a wide selection of books, its owner organizes workshops, exhibitions, music concerts, and more.
The barge bookstore usually anchors on the Canal de l’Ourcq, at 3 Quai de l’Oise. It’s opened from Wednesday till Saturday, from 15:00 to 19:00.
2. Epos library boat
Epos library boat (Bokbåten Epos) is sailing on the west coast of Norway. It serves as a mobile library for two counties, Hordaland and Møre og Romsdal, north of Bergen.
The coast in this region is made up of several islands, with many remote places along the fjords. It’s easier to reach them by ship than a car.
Epos was built in 1963 – specifically to serve as a floating library. It carries about 6,000 books. Inside, there is a large cabin, where various cultural events take place. Most of them are addressed to children.
Twice a year, Epos goes on a 45-day tour, visiting over 100 small communities.
3. M/S Tranan floating library
M/S Tranan (in Swedish it means “crane”) is a library boat operated by Stockholm County Library, and serving four island municipalities: Haninge, Norrtälje, Österåker, and Värmdö.
Each spring and fall M/S Tranan travels around the archipelago of 23 islands, bringing books and events to local communities. The library offers over 3,000 titles from a variety of topics. Visitors can also borrow audiobooks.
On board, there is a large library room and rooms for school and preschool children. There is even a small cafeteria!
The ship was built in 1935 to ferry between Copenhagen and Helsingborg. A Swedish shipping company bought it in 1969. It started as a Stockholm County Library’s boat in 2008, being the fifth ship in a row serving that purpose.
4. Word on the Water bookshop
When you search on Google for “bookstores on water”, 90% of results show a magical bookstore boat Word on the Water.
This most famous bookshop boat is anchored near Granary Square, London. The Dutch barge from the 1920s was transformed into a bookstore in 2011. It sells quality second-hand books at affordable prices.
Besides that, you can enjoy music concerts on the top deck, as well as book launches, and poetry slams. The boat’s famous cats are called Queenie and Skitty.
5. The Book Barge bookshop
This is the most magical floating bookshop the world has ever seen. It’s a 60-foot cruiser stern narrowboat travelling on British waterways, usually residing on the waterfront in Barton-under-Needwood, north of Birmingham.
The bookshop sells small collections of books to private collectors and institutions. On occasional visits to bigger cities, you can enjoy book event and music concerts.
The Book Barge was opened by a former librarian and entertainment journalist Sarah Henshaw in June 2009. She has bought the boat with a money borrowed from her parents. You can find out what happened next in her fascinating book The Bookshop That Floated Away.
6. The Floating Library raft
There are 10,000 lakes in Minnesota. And it’s where you can see The Floating Libray – a small raft with hand-made books that you can approach in the middle of a lake!
The Floating Library is an awesome project run by an educator and artist Sara Powers. The boat itself is a custom-made wooden raft designed by architect Molly Reichert. It measures 8 by 8 feet, and features bookshelves on two sides.
The books are wrapped in a protective foil to make sure the printed matter doesn’t get hurt by water. The library has both circulating and reference collections of books contributed by artists nationwide.
7. Lao Children’s library boats
In rural Laos, many children still don’t have access to books. That’s why a non-profit organization Community Learning International (CLI) launched two library boats that visit 100 villages along the Mekong River.
Each boat can carry 1,000 children’s books. The books are being circulated between communities in special textile bags, each one capable of handling 100 titles.
The boats arrive at a village in the morning. On that day, the children are dismissed from the school, so they could read all day long. The boats stay in the village till the next morning, when all the borrowed books are returned.
8. Logos Hope bookstore
Logos Hope is operated by the German charity GBA Ships (GBA stands for Gute Bücher für Alle).
It’s the largest floating bookstore in the world. The staff and volunteers of 500 people come from almost 50 countries. The ship is big enough to hold up to 1,000 visitors at any time.
The ship travels around the world, promoting good literature and raising money for charity. On board, you can visit a book fair, exhibiting over 7,000 books, ranging from education to technology, history, philosophy, art, and fiction.
9. Floating Library public space
Floating Library was not a library or a bookstore, but a great public event that took place aboard the historic Lilac Museum Steamship on the Hudson River, NYC, in autumn 2014.
The project, initiated by artist Beatrice Glow, was intended to open flow of thoughts for fearless dreaming, through dozens of roundtables, performances and workshops.
The main deck was transformed into a reading lounge where participants were offered a range of reading materials from underrepresented authors, artist books, poetry, and manifestoes.
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