Books, everywhere you look!

With a city library, five open book boxes, a book section in the swap shop and three book stores, Wolfsberg is clearly a city for book lovers.

I was three years old when my Styrian family emigrated to Australia. As soon as I could read I did it often and with pleasure – books in English, that is. Many years later I settled in Austria again and started a family. When my oldest son started school, his teachers noticed something when talking to me: My German had certain, consistent faults. Because although I had spoken German with my parents at home, I had spoken English everywhere else – at school, with friends, at work, etc. My son’s teachers feared that I would pass my faults on to him. He was already having trouble with spelling, so an idea came to mind.

I decided to visit the public library in Wolfsberg every week with my children. Hopefully I could pass on my love for reading to them and their spelling would improve along the way. We didn’t live in town at the time, so almost every Friday afternoon we made a trip out of it. At first they didn’t really know what to do with all the books, but I said we wouldn’t leave until everyone had found a book to borrow. While I was relaxing with home magazines and non-fiction books, my children discovered interactive textbooks, children’s novels and audio books for themselves. They found joy in reading and on the next visits I had to remind them again and again to only borrow as many books as they could read in a week. From month to month, year after year, their books became more challenging. Since in the end all three graduated with the highest grades in German, I would say things worked out as planned. I’m very grateful for these initial experiences in the library and I’m glad that all three are still reading today. That was quite a few years ago, but the city library at Minoriten Platz Nr. 1 is still there today.

In 2017 and 2018 five small “libraries” that are open 24 hours were opened in Wolfsberg: book boxes. The redesigned telephone booths can be found in front of the public pool, opposite the town hall, on Offnerplatzl, Weiher Platz and opposite the train station, refurbished with shelves from the Penz joinery and photovoltaic systems from Elektro Krassnig.

The “open book box” project was initially a StadtmacherInnen idea, which was met with immediate approval by the city council and was brought to life under the name “Treffpunkt Literatur” with the support of the “Kärntner Bildungswerk”, A1 and a handful of volunteers. BORG students designed a book box street map and with even more support, the libraries were individually decorated on the outside by young people from the HTL, the JUZ, the Technical Academy and the Lebenshilfe. On May 18th, 2018, they were ceremoniously opened as part of a “bookworm rally” with music and readings in several languages. This initiative of the Wolfsberg city council even won the Carinthian prize for regionality in the same year.

For almost three years now, the book boxes have been very popular with young and old. The simple rule is “put books in and take books out”, but since there are usually far more books put in than taken out, readers are allowed to take out as many books as they can carry. You should also leave the book boxes tidy after browsing or putting books in. Each book box has a volunteer caretaker who regularly checks that there are no books on the floor, that they are neatly arranged and that the book box isn’t being used as a paper recycling bin. If you have a lot of books to donate, please contact the city council where the books can be dropped off so that the book boxes aren’t overloaded and shelves remain visible.

Author Michael Hatzenbichler has found the right words for this conversion from telephone- to book box:

“A phone box creates connections, inside it you feel cramped, isolated and yet connected. You talk to one another and exchange ideas in this small, quiet place, maybe even feel secure. In contrast, there are the more modern phone calls, which enable communication anywhere, but are often hectic and unfocused. The phone box can be a place of rest, a place of concentration, a place of communication.

But what is a book box?

It also is a place of rest, a place of communication, a place of concentration. I can connect with the wide world by entering a book box in Wolfsberg, picking up books by authors from all over the world, depending on my interests taking them home with me and making contact with the thoughts of the authors. I can connect their thoughts with mine and thus become part of the great world of thoughts. In this little place I grow out into the world and become part of it.”

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