Global Crisis/Innovation Blog

 How to Spread a Small Idea Into a Big Deal

By Shlomo Maital

  I love public transportation, and ride Israel’s excellent trains and buses all the time.  Lately, at several bus stops, I noticed something rather strange.  There were improvised book shelves, and books on them.  Why? Who?  When? 

   I discovered the answer the other day. Here is the story.   Dr. Danny Shoshan, and Amit Matalon, of Technion’s Architecture Faculty, devised an experiment to see how the city and its residents interact.  They placed two sets of bookshelves at bus stops in a Haifa neighborhood.  They stocked them with books and monitored what happened over a 3-week period.  “A miracle took place,” Shoshan says. “People took over the role of stocking and returning the books”.  They then expanded the project to six more locations.  The same thing happened.  Technion students began to put their theses and textbooks on the shelves for sharing.  In religious Orthodox neighborhoods, residents put religious books and CD’s on the shelves.  

  “Our motivation for the project was art,” Shoshan says. “Public space is the place to bring Art!”  Similar “libraries” have been built in other Israeli cities – Tirat HaCarmel, Kfar Saba and even Tel Aviv.  Others will soon be added.  There have even been orders from abroad.  The Mayor of Kfar Saba notes, “with minimal investment and very very creative thinking, we can make municipal libraries available to the general public.”  

    Innovator – why not try this in your city?  Just put a few books on the bench at a bus stop.  See what happens.  Or in general:  Put something in a public place, that arouses curiosity, interaction and conversations.  This is what ‘art’ is truly meant to be.  

  • Source: Technion FOCUS magazine, Oct. 2011.