Our Reading Lives

Why a Pop Up Library is the Most Fun You’ll Have All Day

Lucas Maxwell


Lucas Maxwell has been working with youth in libraries for over fifteen years. Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, he's been a high school librarian in London, UK for over a decade. In 2017 he won the UK's School Librarian of the Year award and in 2022 he was named the UK Literacy Association's Reading For Pleasure Teacher Champion. He loves Dungeons & Dragons and is the author of Let's Roll: A Guide for Setting up Tabletop Roleplaying Games in Your School or Public Library. You can follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

I know what you’re thinking: “What’s a Pop Up Library? Is it some kind of flash mob that demonstrates how to avoid plagiarism through interpretive dance?

Is it when librarians knock on your door to remind you about your overdue books?

Is it when you look out of your office window at a vacant parking lot, turn your head for a second to refresh your Facebook notifications and when you look back out of the window there’s suddenly a group of sensibly dressed people standing there, each of them holding up a book they think you might enjoy based on your past borrowing habits?”

“No, it’s none of those things!” I say, shaking my head while chuckling condescendingly.

“Well what is it, then? I’m trying to do some work. Also, how did you get in here?” you say, scowling.

Alright, alright, slow down, I’ll tell you!

A Pop Up Library is when you take the library from the snug confines of its shelves and bring it out into the world. It gets to meet people, recommend books and make new friends.

Ok, I guess it is kind of like the third scenario mentioned above, but a lot less creepy.

What makes a Pop Up Library successful in my opinion is when you target reluctant readers as well as those who might also be avid users of the library.

To do this, cram your mobile library unit / Mystery Machine / Moped or whatever you use for your Pop Up Library with books that will appeal to reluctant or lower ability readers.

And free food. Free food will get people lining up around the block.

I use doughnuts. You want a free doughnut, you gotta borrow a book. That’s the catch. And when the doughnuts run out you book-talk those lonely remaining novels in the playground like some deranged book preacher until your lips fall off.

And music, I forgot about the music. Get talented students to play music while you hand out books and free doughnuts and people will think you’ve been sent to Earth on a mission from Planet Radical.

pop up library

Not only do you get to make the library and its services visible to a lot of people with a Pop Up Library, you can connect with staff members if you work in a school library and people of all ages if you work in a public library.

It’s great exposure, it gets you outside for some fresh air and it puts books into the hands of humans. In short, it’s the most you’ll have all day.

Are you a librarian that’s tried a Pop Up Library or have you ? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Were you at my Pop Up Library and complained because you got a slightly soggy doughnut because of the rain? Too bad! They were FREE!