• Libraries are adapting to serve changing communities.
  • Some have taken to the road in a bid to find new readers.
  • The libraries of Tokyo are the biggest lenders of books.

There are public libraries at the heart of towns and cities across the globe – worldwide, hundreds of millions of books are loaned every year.

While this lending is still central to what they do, many libraries are reinventing themselves as the communities around them change.

Here are five that are innovating to bring the joy of reading to as many people as possible.

This chart shows the number of book loans by public libraries per year.
In 2018, Tokyo loaned out 111.9 million books from its libraries.
Image: Statista

1. Dallas Public Library, US

In 2013, the Dallas Public Library in Texas launched a scheme to do more for the homeless people that were using its facilities to access the internet, read books and to get some “respite from the streets”. Its Homeless Engagement Initiative has since enrolled thousands of the city’s homeless people in learning, mentorship and life-skills programmes.

2. The Biblioburro, Colombia

About 600 kilometres north of Colombia’s capital, Bogota, the small town of La Gloria is regularly visited by a donkey-powered mobile library. The Biblioburro – or Donkey Library – is the creation of Luis Soriano, who started out in the late 1990s with just 70 books. Now he has a collection of almost 5,000, from which he selects titles to take to local children on his two trusty assistants, Alfa and Beto.

Luis Soriano’s donkey carries around 120 books per trip.
Image: Biblioburro

3. The Camel Library Service, Kenya

Since 1996, a team of camels has traversed Kenya’s vast North Eastern Province to bring books to the 1 million people that live there. Not only is the 126,000 square kilometre region one of Kenya’s least developed areas, it also has some of the worst literacy rates in the country.

4. Los Angeles County libraries, US

In LA County, younger residents no longer have to worry about finding the money for late-return fines – they can read to pay the fee instead. The "Great Read Away" project gives children $5 per hour of reading to settle what they owe. And the library service says it doesn’t pay too much attention to what the kids are reading, just as long as they have a book in hand. About 13,000 blocked accounts have been reinstated under the scheme.

What is the World Economic Forum's Book Club?

The World Economic Forum launched its official Book Club on Facebook in April 2018. Readers worldwide are invited to join and discuss a variety of books, both fiction and non-fiction. It is a private Facebook group dedicated to discussing one book every month.

Each month, we announce a new book on our social media channels. We then publish an extract and begin a chapter-by-chapter discussion with group members. Selected comments and questions are sent to the author, who in return sends us a video response.

Unlike other book clubs, the group features the direct involvement of the authors, giving you - our global audience with members all around the globe - a chance to directly connect with some of the most influential thinkers and experts in the world.

We have featured authors such as Steven Pinker, Elif Shafak, Yuval Noah Harari, and Melinda Gates.

You can join the Book Club here.

Follow us on Twitter here.

Follow us on Instagram here.

5. The New York Public Library, US

The New York Public Library service doesn’t just loan out books. Library members who need smart clothes and accessories for job interviews are able to borrow them for up to three weeks. Library staff also give regular talks on how to prepare for a job interview, as part of a series of life-skills sessions aimed at helping people find employment. The library also offer access to free career resources and links to organizations that can provide professional fashion advice.