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Public bookshelves – in NYC phone booths?

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Martin Meissner/AP

(Read caption) Bookshelves appeared in Cologne, Germany, last fall and were looked after by volunteers like Michael Aubermann (pictured.)

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Public bookshelves have come to New York City, courtesy of architect John H. Locke.

Starting last year, Locke has repurposed four New York City phone booths by fitting them with bookshelves. Passers-by are free to borrow or take the books on the shelves as they like. Locke has an acquaintance in Brooklyn cut the shelves and he paints them, then installs them in the pay phone area.

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Locke says the shelves remain there for a certain period of time, then vanish.

“It’s a spontaneous thing that just erupts at certain locations,” he said of the shelves in an interview with The New York Times. “People like it, people are inspired by it, but then it disappears again.”

He prefers early mornings for installing the shelves.

“There aren’t a lot of people out,” Locke said. “You can just go down, find a good booth, carry it out, latch it in. It takes seconds.”

Last October, Germany saw various public bookshelves spring up in cities all over the country.