Alicia Tapia, a Hawaiian native, school librarian and 11-year San Francisco resident, has found the perfect way to combine everything she loves—books, biking and encounters with new people—in the form of a mini-library on wheels.
Tapia is the creator of Bibliobicicleta, which she describes as a “pop-up library on the back of a bike” that brings free books to San Franciscans. Decked out in colorful lettering and filled to the brim with books, Tapia’s “Biblio” is an eccentric, quintessentially San Francisco sight to behold.
“I think libraries—no matter who you are or how old you are—are a welcoming place,” said Tapia, who drew on her positive memories of visiting libraries as a child when crafting the “Biblio” concept.
The local librarian, who works at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, first got her passion project off the ground in 2013 with the help of Kickstarter. Though she originally worried people wouldn’t be receptive to the idea, Tapia was thrilled when her funding goal was almost immediately surpassed. Using the crowd-sourced funds, Tapia was able to hire a carpenter who helped construct the “Biblio.”
She’s been riding it around town ever since, and estimates she’s handed out thousands of books in the span of eight years. For Tapia, the Bibliobicicleta is a tool for connecting people with books outside of a traditional library setting.
“As a librarian, I come across a lot of books that don't get read. And a lot of times I think that if someone just came across it [in another setting], they'd want to read it,” she said.
One difference from a traditional library? Tapia doesn’t expect these books to be returned. “People are just encouraged to pass it forward after they're done with the book,” she explained.
At its core, Tapia’s endeavor is about human connection. “It helps me to see the good community that thrives here in San Francisco… to give something and not expect anything in return. I think that's really rare in cities,” she said.
San Franciscans can find Tapia and the Bibliobicicleta in the Tenderloin neighborhood on the first and third Wednesday of every month, as well as at farmers’ markets and Sunday Streets throughout the city.
Mike Kuba can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org