Oddly-shaped Intramuros waiting shed is a mobile library | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

MAKING public libraries as common as coffee shops is the aim of The Book Stop. JILSON SECKLER TIU
MAKING public libraries as common as coffee shops is the aim of The Book Stop. JILSON SECKLER TIU
MAKING public libraries as common as coffee shops is the aim of The Book Stop. JILSON SECKLER TIU

AT INTRAMUROS’ plaza Roma in front of the Manila Cathedral is a waiting shed, seemingly out of place as it stands in the middle of a footpath facing the church, blocking pedestrians’ right of way.


But the structure’s location was deliberately chosen precisely because of all the foot traffic. And this is no ordinary waiting shed—it’s a mobile library called “The Book Stop” where one can borrow books and donate old ones already gathering dust at home. The odd fixture’s slanted steel roof and steel shelves are enough to attract random passersby and curious tourists.


In the past month, The Book Stop in Intramuros, Manila, has also attracted a regular crowd of bibliophiles. There are students, mostly from surrounding universities, and—to the delight of its creator, William Ti Jr.—little children who have yet to learn to read, many of them residing in slum communities in the Walled City.


“We have a lot of children’s books. But the children here, they don’t know how to read. They’re just looking at the pictures,” said the 36-year-old architect whose firm, San Juan-based WTA Architecture and Design Studio, put up the mobile library. Intramuros is The Book Stop’s second, well, stop; the first was at the Ayala Triangle Garden in Makati City earlier this year.


In a recent interview with the

, Ti, who admitted to being a bookworm himself, expressed joy that his office’s “urban initiative” was encouraging youngsters to crack open books, even if it is to just enjoy the pictures.


“They are deprived of [books],” said Ti, whose ultimate goal was to build a network of Book Stops in the country.


Around 500 to 800 people drop by The Book Stop on weekdays, the number going up to about 1,000 on weekends with Ti saying that they lose around 30 to 40 books every day. These are numbers that his team take note of to determine the community’s need for a public library.


If [we] have this data, [we] can push for change, use that as a platform to push for more public libraries. Libraries need to be more accessible; [they] need to be part of the urban landscape,” said Ti.


He even likened the concept of The Book Stop to that of popular cafe chain Starbucks: “How come there’s one here then another across the road? [It’s] because you should not go out of your way to get a cup of coffee. [Likewise], you should not go out of your way just to get a book,” he said.


The Book Stop will be in Intramuros until July 8 since Ti “want[s] the community to be attached to it.” He and his team are hoping to build in the next two years a network of Book Stops, mostly in Metro Manila and probably in nearby cities if there are enough funds.


20 more eyed 


So far, they already have funding for at least one more Book Stop which costs around P300,000 to P400,000, said Ti. “We have around 20 target areas. Quezon [Memorial] Circle, Luneta, Liwasang Bonifacio, Eastwood, Mandaluyong Circle, Quiapo [and] Mendiola were mentioned,” he added.


Isn’t it risky to just leave an open structure like The Book Stop in a public area, especially in Manila where the structure’s steel parts could fetch a hefty sum?


Ti shrugs off such concern. “If you look at our plotted sites, most of them are actually in Manila because that is where the need is,” he said. “It’s actually better for us to put it in Bonifacio Global City, Ayala Triangle, Eastwood. You get more media coverage; it’s safer, books don’t get lost, but that’s not the point.”


(Besides, Ti described the structure as “robust,” able to withstand even harsh storms. “It would take 50 people to carry this thing. The flooring, for example, it took 20 people to move that,” he said.)


They do lose more books than they gain, he admitted; donations significantly go up only when they hold events at The Book Stop, such as open mic poetry reading, heritage talks and storytelling sessions.


However, judging by the fact that they started with 360 books in Ayala Triangle Garden and now have around 600 on the shelves, plus 400 in storage, Ti said that “the honesty system works for us, because we actually have more books than when we started.”


He added that despite having a member of his team check on The Book Stop every day, regular patrons have taken it upon themselves to put the books back in order. Ti said that they would soon be posting online via The Book Stop PH’s social media sites a call for volunteer librarians.


“The point is to make [those who have the authority] realize that there is a need for a better public library system. That’s why you are in the city—so you can have more ideas flowing through you and access to more knowledge. To deprive a city of that, I think, is almost criminal,” Ti said.