JUNE 8, 2021

The Semi-Hidden Stories of Amsterdam - PART 1

Cover Illustration: In Lomanstraat, you can take a book in a variety of languages. On Jan. 23, 2021 there were books in Dutch, English, Swedish and German among others. Kira Guehring / The Amsterdammer


Photographers Elisa Morand and Kira Guehring reveal the many bookshelves dotted around Amsterdam and provide some locations, handy for avid-readers living on a student budget. 

At this point in the pandemic, most people have surfed through the entirety of Netflix’s catalogue for shows, learned a few trending Tik Tok dances and baked some banana bread. If you are looking for a new hobby, reading is always a fun option! While bookstores have finally reopened, constantly buying new books can be expensive on a student budget. 

Fortunately, there is a way to get books for free. Sprinkled around Amsterdam are little bookshelves filled with books looking for a new home. The principle is simple: if you see anything you like, you can take it. And then once you’ve read it, you bring it back for someone else to enjoy. You can also contribute by bestowing your own books that you no longer want or need.

While the concept of these tiny street libraries is well-known, their locations often are not, and to protect the books from the Dutch weather, many are hidden away. So, two of us photographers from The Amsterdammer went on a quest to find them. The result of our search was a success, with us finding several bookshelves we list here and many more. As it turns out, once you start looking, you quickly realize that they are everywhere. 

So the next time you are going for a walk, perhaps consider finding something new to read along the way. Now, you do not even have to wait until you run into them, as we have included the locations of the bookshelves in the captions. Happy reading! 

Buurt boekenkast on Pieter Aertszstraat 57I during a January afternoon. Élisa Morand / The Amsterdammer
The bookshelves in Lomanstraat are easily recognizable as they have little roofs, photographed in January. Kira Guehring / The Amsterdammer
A free library in Amsterdam’s famous Prinsengracht, photographed on a February afternoon. Kira Guehring / The Amsterdammer
A free library next to de Buiten Tuin near Vaartstraat in Amsterdam’s Schinkelbuurt in January. Kira Guehring / The Amsterdammer
Van Puffelen’s mini-bieb on Prinsengracht 375-377 during a snowy day in February. Élisa Morand / The Amsterdammer
Bookshelf in Overtoom (across from Dionysos Taverna) in Amsterdam Oud-West, taken in April. Kira Guehring / The Amsterdammer
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