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Knjižnica pod krošnjami – Ljubljana

By Camille Vilain

Knjižnica pod krošnjami – Library Under the treetops

Tina Popovic and a friend were waiting for a concert in line in a boring space. They noticed that when you are in a public space there is not that many thing to do. Therefore, Tina who was at this time event planner for the Ljubljana festival decided to find a good idea to change this situation. The idea of library under the Treetops was born. To implement the idea, Tina created a NGO to facilitate the process. The Tourist Office of Slovenia saw a great opportunity to develop something in the public spaces and to attract new tourists. Indeed, after the redesign of the city center, new publics spaces where available but they were very empty. Initiatives such as libraries under the treetops was an occasion to dynamic the city center. An occasion that the Tourist Office could no miss. Thanks to them, the initiative grow in term of public respect, the audience have grown thanks to this promotion.
The libraries are open in Ljubljana from the end of May to the beginning of September. Opening hours depend of the locations, but they are most likely to be open on the weekends. In the other city, the libraries can be open during the all summer or just during some weeks regarding the time and financial supports that are used. Books are donations and gifts from publishers. People working during the summer to take care of the libraries are volunteers most of the time and some money is given to them if there is financial possibilities. Many helpers do it because they believe in the idea and the project of developing lecture in Slovenia for free. Most of them join the project as volunteer after having a good experience the years before with Library under the Treetops. In Ljubljana, there is approximately 30 people volunteering during the summer and a total of 60 for the entire Slovenia.
Each library has a special specialization. For instance, the one in Tivoli Park, where a lot of family are going during the weekend has more book for children. The one in the city center, near the faculty is bi Slovene/bi English thanks to some donations of the American Embassy. Except the reading time, some lectures and workshops are organized with some writers and philosophers in the city in order to create some event.
The association as many partners to help them keeping the portable libraries during the night. Partners are most of the time shops which are close to the location of the libraries and which are OK to let the libraries “sleep” under their roofs.
Next to each portable libraries, one’s can find a green box which is a book sharing box where people who do not want their books anymore can give them for free to other user of the libraries.

Key actors

Tina Popovič is the creator of this project. Nowadays, this initiative is a part of a small NGO named Divja misel (the Savage Mind in English – it is the title of a book of the famous Franch anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss). Three women are active in this NGO: Tina Popovič as a founder, Kristina Piškur and another girl.
This association has many projects related to books and culture. Three projects have been implemented:
– “Library under the treetops”
– “My street”: a project collecting the stories of people who have been living in Ljubljana since long time ago in order to share them with younger people. A documentary shooting has been done and some lectures have been organized where these people could tell their story in front of an audience (story telling of real stories)
– The association is now the renter of the birth house of the first poet of Ljubljana Valentin Vodnik. They can use this house for 5 years and will dedicate it to the creation of a House of books, writing and storytelling. Lectures, writing rooms, an art gallery and some workshops will animate this place in the following years.

Role of design

At the beginning, urban furniture were buy in local shops but they were not very efficient. To promote the event and to create a unity for the “pseudo-brand” library under the treetops, the association asked for the help of Andraz Tarman, a designer. He conceived the bookshelves, the boxes, the boards of information’s. The idea was to have a trend mark, something that people can identify and recognize in Slovenia. The purpose was also to develop easy and accessible urban furniture that could be adapt by the user according to his age. For instance the bookshelves can modify by the user to make it easier for him to access the books. It is accessibility design. Other designers helped in the conception of special chairs for children. The rest of the urban furniture are bought in shops.
Rmeci OBLAK offers to the association some support in term of public relations and help with the text design. He has written for the association specials texts to promote the events in Slovenia.
Other initiatives such as this one were created in Slovenia. The association do not like when some citizens take the same name for their initiatives without being a part of the official association. Citizens can join the association to create this event in their city, but they will have to help the association in the process of fund raising.