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The Floating Library returns this week

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Last year’s runaway public-art hit the Floating Library is back for two weekends of idyllic art book browsing. This is the third year that Sarah Peters, the library’s founder, has lead the project, and it's the first year it will be set afloat Silver Lake, located within Silverwood Park. 

Just like a regular library, the Floating Library offers visitors a chance to check out and return items. Its selection includes artists’ books, zines, chapbooks, bookish sculptural objects, and other artist-made printed matter. People can also simply browse the collection. The only requirement is that you boat yourself out to the Floating Library’s raft, where volunteers are ready and willing to usher you toward the art book your heart desires. 

Peters was inspired to bring the Floating Library back this year after such a successful run in 2014. That summer, the project was in operation for three weekends on Cedar Lake in Minneapolis, where there were many paddlers not specifically there for the Floating Library. Peters enjoyed encountering boaters who just happened upon the project.

“So many people that came along and found us were just out boating for the day,” she says. 

Conversations with people who just happened upon the library were often the most exciting. A particularly memorable one was with a couple who engaged with her about Pussy Riot, the subject of a “paper internet” piece by Sam Gould.

“They had kind of heard about Pussy Riot, and we had this whole conversation about censorship,” she says. “It’s not normally what you talk about with people on the water. I love that Minnesotans are able to approach something weird and out of the ordinary and engage with it.”

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Cedar Lake provided a beautiful setting, but had a few drawbacks, as the nearest spot to rent a boat from for the day was on Lake Calhoun. While it’s a lovely trip to paddle a canoe across Calhoun and Lake of the Isles to get to Cedar, Silver Lake has boat rental right where the Floating Library will be, which makes the project a more accessible.

This year, Three Rivers Park District is providing Peters with quite a bit of infrastructural support, including storage of the books and a motor boat to tow the raft.

“One of the challenges last year was paddling it around,” she says. Silverwood Park also made sense because they already do quite a bit of arts programming, so there are already people who are drawn to the destination for its mixture of nature and creative offerings. 

Silver Lake has two islands within it, which Peters says are a perfect place to go take your books to read for a while. One of the islands is a nature preserve, while the other has picnic tables and places to have a little lunch while you settle in with your reading material.

“I love the idea of people getting their book and paddling over to the island,” she says. There’s even a book return place on the island.

Unfortunately, this year the Floating Library didn’t get public funding like last year, when Peters received a Minnesota State Arts Board grant. So the project is being conducted on a slightly smaller scale. Peters wasn’t able to commission new art books for the Silverwood Park run, but she did receive around 80 submissions from artists willing to lend their art books to the project. Peters has chosen about 60 selections, due to space.

“I am anxious about how it’s all going to fit,” she says.

They also still have the raft from 2014, so they didn’t have to spend money on construction like they did last year.

Some favorite works from last year will be returning, including a book of 3D slides of miniature ships and boats by Areca Roe, as well as the paper-cut engineering book by Margaret Pezalla-Granlund. Also available will be Caitlin Warner’s book, made entirely of mylar, and a book about food references in Prince songs.

IF YOU GO:

The Floating Library

Open hours are this Saturday and Sunday and July 25-26

11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

There will also be “Moonlight paddle and poetry” on Saturday, August 1 at 8 p.m.