The Library of Unread Books
The Library of Unread Books is an itinerant library initiated by Heman Chong and Renée Staal. It is a living reference library with a collection of over 1000 titles, that traces the perimeters of knowledge and reflects on notions of access, excess and the politics of redistribution.
Every single book you find in the collection was once private property and has been donated by an individual who did not read it when it was in their possession. The Library of Unread Books brings to light these once-hidden-away titles to emphasize shared knowledge. The books, which are accessible to anyone who can visit the library sites, work to create a commons.
The books of The Library of Unread Books are arranged randomly and in stacks, in a setting that encourages visitors to feel at home and re-arrange the books according to will and desire. The library is constantly on the move, and never in storage, relying on the generosity of art institutions to produce access points to the library.
Reminding us that a (private) library is both a means to an end and a research tool rather than an accessory, Umberto Eco famously called for an “antilibrary” made up of unread books. The novelist and scholar argued that read books are far less valuable than the unread ones and that a library should contain as much of what one does not know as finance might allow. “You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly.” In the case of this library of unread books, access to knowledge is not contingent on finance, and so the books are reverted back to a common resource pool.