It makes sense that the idea for the Floating Library came to artist Sarah Peters while she was drifting away in a boat, aching to do something more than stare at the reflection of the sun. "Beach reading is so common," she says. "So why aren't people in their canoes reading?"
Starting this weekend, on Cedar Lake, boaters will get the chance to turn from their poles (or their navels or sun glares) to books, many of which are delicate hand-crafted works of art by local artists such as Molly Balcom Raleigh, Margaret Pezalla-Granlund and Areca Roe. The Floating Library takes to the waters of the South Minneapolis lake from August 16 through September 13, the perfect literary cast off to a near-perfect summer.
"When you are doing something as uncommon as a library on a lake, there are a number of things you have to explain," says Peters.
So here's what you need to know before heading out:
1. The Floating Library sets sail on Cedar Lake this weekend, and runs Saturdays and Sundays throughout the month from 11am to 5pm.
2. How do you get to it? You just paddle out to it. Swim out to it. Raft out to it. Inner tube to it. You get the drift...
3. It was designed with the help of architect Molly Reichert, and has its own shelving system. You can actually check out the books from your boat. (Eat this, fish.)
4. It functions like a real library, meaning you have a week to return the books you borrow. Don't worry, though. If you can't make it back to Cedar Lake, you can return the books at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Boneshaker Books, Pillsbury House Theater, and Wheel Fun Rentals on Lake Calhoun.
5. While you can check out traditional old paperbacks, artists nationwide have designed books with the concept of water and wetness in mind. Artist Molly Balcolm Raleigh, for example, has created copies of her edible book "Fake Fish." The book, made of nori and cornstarch, can be read and then returned to the lake as fish food. (A true meta cycle of life.)
6. Unlike "Little Free Libraries," where you take a book maybe secretly and only interact with the tiny door and its tiny handle, the unique aspect of the Floating Library is the sense of community it brings along with it. Minnesota lakes function as their own little towns, often with their own culture and unwritten rules. The Floating Library adds to that sense of community and creates a new element of exchange.
7. Imagine what else we could do while drifting along our lakes: A floating post office, exchanging hand-written letters and ideas?
8. How have people responded to the prototype, which tested the waters for the first time last year? "There were two categories," Peters said. "People were either totally delighted with surprise and wonder, or they totally ignored us." Sounds like the perfect library experience.