July 15, 2013

Tel Aviv opens a new beach library, or why we’re never coming home


All of these people have actually forgotten about the beach.

Though not all beach-and-book encounters are free of tragic consequences, the municipality of Tel Aviv has bravely leapt into those little fluffy waves at the very edge of the surf and started up a a new project: a beach library on wheels. The library, initiated last week, is a cheerily-painted cart carrying 523 books in Hebrew, English, Russian, Arabic, and French, parked on Metzitzim Beach in northern Tel Aviv for the summer.

The books are free to borrow and there’s no librarian in attendance (sad news for those of us who, having just realized that you might be able to be a “beach librarian,” thought all our dreams had been answered), nor are library cards required, or even a check-out process. Beachgoers can simply wander up and choose a book from the ranks. Returns are also on the honor system, and the initiator of the project, Iris Mor, the head of Tel Aviv’s culture department, seems admirably phlegmatic about the possibility of some books not coming back:

“We are doing an experiment of making a service available to the public without being policemen, and we hope it will succeed,” she said, adding with a smile, “If they take a couple of books, it’s okay – we will bring new ones.”

The library also has an electronic side: the beach has free wi-fi, and the municipality has set up a site, “Free TLV,” where owners of e-readers and tablets can download reading material. The mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Ron Huldai, who helped launch the library, sees it as the natural extension  of an already library-rich city: in an article in the Jerusalem Post, Danielle Ziri writes that, at the opening ceremony, Huldai commented that Tel Aviv “has 22 public libraries, with over 400,000 book borrowings every year…. It is our pleasure to open another library in the summer months for the enjoyment of the residents and visitors of the city.”

Huldai also said that the beach library may travel to other beaches around the city, and, if it’s successful, more libraries may be started up. Since Tel Aviv is also famous for its sushi—it has the third highest concentration of sushi restaurants in the world, after Tokyo and New York—from henceforward you can direct all emails to me to [email protected]


Sal Robinson is a former Melville House editor. She's also the co-founder of the Bridge Series, a reading series focused on translation.