The Austrian city of Klagenfurt is an important spot for German literature. Small publishing houses are scattered throughout the city and each year it hosts a major literary festival. But with such literary roots it’s odd that the city is without one common municipal institution: a public library. It’s the only major central European city without one.
Recently, the city got a public library in an unusual form. It uses QR codes. The initiative, created by Georg Holzer, a journalist, and Bruno Hautzenberger, a software developer, put up 70 stickers with QR codes and NFC chips throughout the city. Known as Project Ingeborg, it directs users to e-books and other digital content that’s available free of charge, mainly from sites offering public domain works like Project Gutenberg.
What’s interesting is that, while the “library” isn’t housed in a single building, the stickers are connected to the location they’re placed around the city. For example, according to the website: “Arthur Schnitzler’s ‘The Killer’ in the vicinity of the Federal Police, Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s ‘Everyman’ at the cathedral, or Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the beach.”
Part of the reason behind this project is to raise the issue that the city doesn’t have an actual public library. Because while a city scattered with QR codes for free books is a neat idea, it doesn’t live up to the ideals of a public library. It doesn’t act as a gathering place for anyone to access information. Plus there’s a clear access barrier here between people with smartphones and those without them.
Of course, for cities without the funds for a public library, this idea could be an alternative. Let’s hope, however, that it’s an idea used to complement rather than replace the public library. For example, a book walk tour or information of must read books on historical and important locations throughout the city.
Photo courtesy of Project Ingeborg