Thessaloniki’s bus stop ‘libraries’ transform residents’ daily commute

Gone are the days of bleakly waiting for the bus on Thessaloniki’s number 64 bus route. Commuters can now enjoyably fill the time by reading from a selection of books available to them for free, in attractive book cases built inside the stone bus shelters. And when the bus arrives, no worries; you can hop on and take your book with you, continuing reading on the way to your destination and return it when you are finished.

The route connects Filyro with the centre of Thessaloniki, with four ‘library’ bus stops in Filyro and one in Panorama. The idea originated with the Pylaia-Hortiati municipal authority and was implemented with the Filyro Citizens Communication Movement.

“The most important thing is that the citizens have embraced the initiative and keep it alive. They have adopted the spaces and try to keep them filled with books. We started off with one stop and managed to increase this to five,” said Pylaia-Hortiati Mayor Ignatios Kaitezidis.

The idea was launched about two years ago, with the first bus stop starting with about 100 books. Later versions also had benches to sit on, spaces for newspapers and magazines and notice boards for municipality events and activities.

When they return the book they have taken, users are also encourage to bring another from their own collection to “keep it company” and bring joy to other passengers. According to the organisers of the initiative, not everyone is conscientious about returning books, while some are actively destructive, but a balance is struck by the many people that actively support them and fill them with books again and again.

The municipality received a Best City Award for the idea in 2016, and it has since been adopted by many municipalities in Greece.