A Library for Refugees in Less Than 20 Minutes

Paris-based Bibliothèques Sans Frontières, or Libraries Without Borders, is set to launch a UK branch on March 30. Founded in 2007 by French historian and University of Paris and Yale University Law School lecturer Patrick Weil, LWB exists to promote culture and knowledge-based development, particularly in areas of the world without easy access.

Their latest endeavor is the Idea Box, a portable library and technology center that can be set up by four people in less than 20 minutes. Designed by Philippe Starck to be transportable and simple to use, the Idea Box will provide access to education and books for refugees in areas of the world suffering from the aftermath of war and natural disasters.

The Idea Box was tested in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake with great success—though some questioned whether a library should be as much of a priority for earthquake victims as food and shelter.

“Naturally when a disaster happens, it is the priority to save lives and bring food, water, clothes,” said Weil in response. “But after you get that, what do you do? People have to stay months, years, in places with no access to books, education or connection to the rest of the world.”

Weil argues that access to books, culture, and a broader range of information improves the outcomes for displaced refugees, who suffer from boredom and trauma, by promoting intellectual stimulation, self-worth, and a sense of normality.

LWB wants to develop the Idea Box further, bringing it to locations such as Jordan, Lebanon, Cambodia, and underprivileged communities in the UK and the US.

The launch of LWB’s UK branch will be celebrated with an event at the Institut Francais in Kensington, London, where there will be discussions about access to information, education, and culture, led by a panel of experts, including Ian McEwan, Kenan Malik, Lisa Appignanesi, and Martyn Wade.


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