The Bicycle Library was launched a year after we came across Robson Mendonça handing out books to the homeless in the centre of Sao Paulo. I asked him what he was doing and he told me that his life had been completely transformed by reading George Orwell’s famous novel "Animal Farm". Reading this book made him stop drinking and encouraged him to study and look for a job. He was out on the streets because he wanted to share his experience with others. Robson is now the president of a volunteer organisation that campaigns for homeless people’s rights.
The Bicycle Library scheme is based on the following premise: because the homeless have no proof of address they cannot take books out of the regular library, so this library comes to them. The Bicycle Library has got rid of all the bureaucracy that joining a library usually involves. Borrowing books encourages conversation, and our goal is to help homeless people get their dignity back and reintegrate into society. Today, the project is open not only to the homeless but to everybody, regardless of their situation.
“Inspired by the success of this initiative, we’re going to create a dozen more Bicycle Libraries in other cities”
We’ve done our best to make the service as easy to use as possible. The books can be passed around. The person who originally borrows the book is not obliged to give it back to us directly; somebody else can return it instead. Readers are free to do whatever they want.
The Bicycle Library operates from Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. It moves around every day, frequenting the busiest areas of the city. The bike even has a solar-powered computer with Internet access. Three other volunteers use the computer to run literacy classes and help people find homeless shelters.
Inspired by the success of this scheme, we plan to create a dozen more Bicycle Libraries in other Brazilian cities.