It's all the brainchild of Sarah Peters, who wanted to combine all the things she loves in one place. "I love books, I love artists' books, I love boats, and I love water," she says. "The project takes what I want to be doing in the summer anyway into a confluence of things."
Peters applied for a grant to run the floating library last year, but wasn't able to get funding. She decided to do a pilot project anyway, building a raft for a one-weekend excursion. "I was surprised by how people responded," she says. "People were really enthusiastic."
This year, Peters received funding from the Minnesota State Arts Board, so the floating library is able to happen a bit longer this time around. From August 16 through 31, the library will be open on Saturdays and Sundays in the water near Cedar Point Beach. There will be a final reprise on September 13 at Lake Winona in Winona, Minnesota, where she'll also give an artist's talk at Winona State University.
With help from architect Molly Reichert, the raft's design from last year was modified to be bigger and to accommodate the library's needs, including a new shelving system.
To borrow a book from the library, you have to sign up for a library card by giving your email address. You have a week to read them, and can return books to the floating library itself during open hours or to several drop-off points such as the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Boneshaker Books, Pillsbury House + Theater, and Wheel Fun Rentals on Lake Calhoun.
For some especially delicate books from the library's reference section, you'll have to peruse them while still at the library instead of taking them with you. There are also books that you won't need to return. For example, Molly Balcom Raleigh is one of the three artists Peters commissioned to create books specifically for the project. Her book is made out of starch paper and nori, and it disappears as you place it in the water.
Areca Roe, another commissioned artist, has created a book that has a special view finder to see her 3D images of miniature ships and boats floating in household objects, available in the reference section. Margaret Pezalla-Granlund, the third commissioned artist, uses paper-cut engineering for her book. Pezall-Granlund also has a commercially printed photo book available at the library with of images of creative landscapes that look like the moon.
Other books available range from letterpress books to hand-bound objects. One book about sailing knots is itself tied together with a rope. Another, by Chad Rutter, is a photography book printed only in pink and blue. Or you can browse the pages of a book that outlines all of the food mentioned in Prince songs, with illustrations.
Some artists answered the call for materials by providing books that directly respond to the context of the lake. Some are donated from artists, while others are on loan, with a disclaimer that damage is a possibility.
If you don't happen to have a boat or a blow-up raft (swimming to the library is highly discouraged), you'll need to rent one. The closest place is Wheel Fun Rentals on Lake Calhoun, where canoes, kayaks, and paddle boats range from $12 to $25 per hour.
The Floating Library
Cedar Lake (near Cedar Point Beach)
August 16-31 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Winona Lake (hours TBD) on September 13.