Pop Up Libraries

Read/Write Library operates on a hub and spoke model, with our public reading room based in Humboldt Park and Pop Up Library programs throughout the Chicago area (and beyond!) in collaboration with cultural or neighborhood organizations who are deeply embedded within their communities. Each Pop Up Library curation process begins with understanding the community partner’s audience and the narratives that the partners would like to engage their audience in reshaping.

What is a Pop Up Library?

Like our central location, Pop Up Libraries are “rewritable.” They start with a relevant selection of publications from within our permanent collection of Chicago media and from dedicated community-specific outreach in advance, but instead of claiming to represent the full record, Pop Up Library discussions and workshops encourage participants to ask — and then answer themselves — what stories are missing. Why have they been left out, and how can we alter our perception of who the experts, authorities and gatekeepers are in order to recognize the knowledge and insight in the people who surround us, and in ourselves? Through this process of interacting with and questioning the record, identifying sources of expertise in their own communities, actively seeking out sources and materials, and then sharing what they have uncovered, participants “rewrite” the record by adding to the Pop Up Library. As the collection evolves, a more representative and complex narrative emerges and provides a community-centered foundation upon which to imagine the future.

Why do Pop Up Libraries work?

Because each collection is seeded with local publications that reflect the lived experience of visitors and participants, the distance between creator and viewer collapses. People are more likely to share their own stories and respect their own expertise when they recognize the authorities on the shelf as their friends, family and neighbors. By broadening the definition of what is worth valuing as a city, Pop Up Libraries open up conversation and bridge divides.

Where have Pop Up Libraries popped up?

Pop Up Library Inquiries

To learn more about bringing a Pop Up Library to your organization, press inquiries, or how you can support this work to get more materials out into the communities it came from, email Executive Director Nell Taylor at nell@readwritelibrary.org