The Library of Unread Books has been at the First Coworking Community on the fifth floor of the First United Building in Escolta for two weeks now, and so far, about 50 books have been added to the traveling library-slash-installation.
It is the brainchild of Singaporean Heman Chong and Dutchman Renee Staal, and the two-month Manila stop is the library’s second pitstop. It is part of the MCAD Commons exhibition program of the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design Manila, a programmed space removed from the main gallery space in Malate.
First mounted and launched in Singapore last year, The Library of Unread Books is a ten-year-project comprised of donated books that previous owners had not read.
That’s the only way for anybody to be a member of the library: Donate a book you haven’t had the chance to read and you get a library card, valid until the project comes to a close in 10 years’ time.
According to Mariano Batocabe, the project’s sitting librarian in Manila, they’re estimating another 100 books or so to be added to the library — about 10 books a week.
“It’s interesting to note that in the first two weeks, nobody has donated the same book. Two have donated Tolkien, and somebody has donated an entire encyclopedia set,” he observes.
People are free to come in, browse the books, hangout, drink even. “It’s a very communal thing,” Batocabe adds, saying The Library of Unread Books is a much freer space than the usual libraries, where a lot of rules apply.
There are no shelves holding the books; instead they are grouped in small stacks scattered all through the room.
At The Library of Unread Books, there are only two ruless: First, people can’t take home books. “They're free to hangout here and browse the books but they can't bring them home. It’s an acquiring library,” he explains.
And second, no religious books, please. “It may hinder the movement of the library. If people donate a bible, or the Quoran, some countries might censor the library.
“The library is still very new, it’s just on its first year so we’ll never know [where it’s headed], anything can happen.”
One thing’s for sure though. At the end of the ten-year run, Chong and Staal are looking to build an actual library, a collection of these books’ unwanted knowledge in a museum.
At the First Coworking Community, we found books like “How to Read a Person Like a Book,” James Patterson's "Sunday's at Tiffany's," Zadie Smith’s “White Teeth,” and a little red book written in Japanese amid the little stacks on the floor, on desks, on the wooden planks, by the plants.
“We’ll never know if the books were never really read by their owners," Batocabe says. “We’re on an honesty system.”
The Library of Unread Books is at the MCAD Commons. First Coworking Space 5/F First United Building, 413 Escolta, Manila. Tuesdays-Saturdays 10am-6pm. — LA, GMA News