Shipping Container Libraries – Making Books Accessible Across the World
What do books and shipping containers have in common? When you think of shipping containers, images of large steel boxes being loaded and unloaded at shipping ports by monstrous cranes immediately spring to mind. But can you imagine these structures being used as libraries and reading places for children all over the world?
While architecture and design firms are competing with each other to recycle shipping containers and convert them into avant garde living environments, organisations that promote literacy among children and adults are using them to construct libraries. These are not just for under-advantaged kids in poor countries, but also in the first world countries like Germany and the UK to rekindle the joys of reading.
Check out these innovative shipping container libraries for inspiration:
An accidental shipping container library
One day in 2013 a 40-foot shipping container arrived at the Children International’s Gifts in Kind program centre in Kenya. It was a mistaken delivery. It created quite a stir because the kids had never seen such a big container being hauled around. While the transportation personnel brainstormed on how to take the container back, the staff at the centre came up with the idea of using the sturdy structure as a library.
The director of the centre used his negotiation skills to purchase the container at a low price and also arranged for the container to be transported to the nearby community where it could be set upon plain ground.
Retrofitted with furniture and equipment and decked out with shelving and storage, currently the shipping container library accommodates more than 2,200 books and scores of kids and adults can go through the books at the same time.
Similar shipping container libraries have mushroomed in various parts of Africa even in remote locations like Accra, Ghana.
When short of funds, a shipping container library can come to rescue
The SEED Library in Johannesburg, South Africa, is made up of shipping containers positioned perpendicular to each other. Initially they hadn’t meant to go this way. Architects of Justice were commissioned to design a library for the underprivileged but soon the project fell short of money. Instead of giving up, the design team put their heads together and came up with this idea of using shipping containers to create a makeshift library. The library has gone on to earn multiple accolades at various design competitions.
They strategically positioned various shipping containers to create more interior space within the outdoors spatial constraints. The design team, instead of aiming for the bare minimums, used various colour themes to create different areas for different library-related activities. For example the upper containers are painted green and grey to create a soothing effect conducive to reading and studying. They have also created open spaces at the top where children and adults can sit under the sun and enjoy their books. LED lighting is used inside to put minimum strain on energy resources.
A shipping container library in Indonesia where the locals can read in great comfort
Shipping container libraries are also being innovatively installed in developing countries, such as the Amin Library made of 7 shipping containers in Batu, Indonesia. The library has over 6,000 books that the locals can access for free.
The Amin Library building is so attractive and colourful that it has become a popular attraction and a landmark. It’s a relaxing experience with some parts of the library overlooking treetops and local houses and specially allocated relaxation areas for women. Designed by the Indonesian design firm DPavillion Architects, the library doesn’t just boast of cutting-edge reading facilities but also has a fully-equipped cafeteria. A visit to the library and browsing through its various books has become a regular leisure activity for many residents of the area.
A Dutch mobile library complemented by a shipping container
Shipping containers are heavy and bulky but it doesn’t mean that they should always be grounded. BiebBus is a Dutch Children’s Library that has a shipping container mounted upon its mobile vans to house extra books and give its readers more reading space. This is a perfect solution for situations where library funds are limited and enough local support for a functional library is lacking. Besides, a mobile library can be taken to remote areas where good quality books are not generally available.
The BiebBus library is a fun place to be, especially for the kids. The shipping container reading room on top has a transparent floor. The indoor lighting is quite soothing and fascinating. The large spherical windows allow kids to look outside or read books in lots of natural light.
But why mount a shipping container upon a library vehicle? The old Dutch town roads are quite narrow and often it is not possible for the broader library vehicles to drive through. Within the limited space they could either carry books or have space for reading. The shipping container solved the problem. Placed atop the vehicle, it acts as a reading room.
Libraries can be made with brand-new shipping containers as well as recycled ones – it all depends on the available resources and the design preferences of the architects and designers. A great thing about such modular libraries is that they can be constructed with minimal cost and they can be quickly assembled.
Once you have set up a shipping container all you have to do is fit the furniture, the shelves, chairs and tables and appropriate lighting. If you place the shipping container upon a trailer you are not even bound to a particular place. You don’t need to dig the foundations, or construct walls and a roof and you don’t even need to buy space as long as you can park your containers somewhere. All you need is a good assortment of books and a nice shipping container and there you have it – your own library in a matter of days.
Want to Construct your Very Own Shipping Container Library?
Gateway Container Sales & Hire have a wide range of both insulated and standard shipping containers available in a full range of sizes from 10 foot to 40 foot long that are perfect for housing your library. Need modifications? We do that too, with everything from installing temperature control units, to ventilation and access doors. Contact our team now to discuss the perfect container for your own mobile library or DIY reading room.