Founded in 2011, Street Books is a bicycle-powered mobile library, serving people who live outside in Portland, Oregon. Laura Moulton, a writer, artist and adjunct professor at Marylhurst University and Lewis & Clark Colleges, started the project because “everyone should have the right to read, no matter if you have a home address or not.”
Patrons of the mobile library are issued an official Street Books library card without being required to show proof of address or identification. As Laura explains in the video, people living outside or in shelters are usually barred from borrowing books from regular libraries because they don’t have the necessary documentation to get a library card.
Every week, Laura and some volunteers ride their mobile libraries to regular, designated spots around town. Patrons sift through the books, check out the ones they are interested in, and unlike traditional libraries, they can keep the book for as long as necessary. For any reason, if they are unable to return the book back to Street Books, Laura just asks the patrons to pay it forward and pass the book along to someone they know.
“Everyone should have the right to read, no matter if you have a home address or not.”
Street Books was initially planned as a short term experiment, but do to the overwhelming response and success, it has grown to become a vital part of the community. Since its inception, they have checked out thousands of paperbacks in all genres, and have served more than 5,000 patrons.
“We are committed to providing good literature, and conversations about literature, for those who are pushed to the margins,” Laura says. “The power of Street Books is that when the assumption is these people outside are not intelligent, they’re not capable of a range of feelings somehow that people in houses are, we show a different narrative.”