Modern design has taken to the streets of Manhattan in the form of tiny public lending libraries. Lodged between stately columns, on a public park bench, nestled in a schoolyard fence, in an alley or at the end of a pier, 10 small-scale designer libraries now reside in New York’s East Village and Lower East Side, inviting neighbors and visitors to stop, read and stay awhile. Creations of the Little Free Library (LFL) project, these libraries were designed and built by 10 teams for the New Museum’s Ideas City festival.

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Little Free Library project is a nonprofit whose mission is to place accessible lending libraries in neighborhoods worldwide. More than 6,000 libraries have been built this year alone, with a projected 25,000 libraries by the end of 2013, according to the organization’s founder, Todd Bol. Whether people build, buy or design their own library, the idea of “take a book, leave a book” is sticking.

The front yards of residential neighborhoods host many of these pocket-size public libraries, allowing neighbors to share and gather right outside their front doors; but for many people who live in Manhattan, the city streets replace front yards; the organizers of this particular project were excited about the opportunity to build a specifically New York–based project. Public plazas, university campuses and art centers, among other sites, are standing in for front lawns and cul-de-sacs.

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