IDA Project of the Month

Like many city centers, Downtown Huntsville, Alabama, is fortunate to have a significant public library where patrons can engage in research, attend concerts, participate in continued education, and, of course, borrow books. Unfortunately, the Downtown Public Library is located on the perimeter of the city center, away from much of the residential and office population.

Recognizing this, Downtown Huntsville, Inc. convened a strategy session in 2015 to discuss how to bring free books, magazines, and other types of media closer to where people live, work, and play in the city center. The result is a partnership between Downtown Huntsville, Inc., Arts Huntsville, the Huntsville/Madison County Public Library System, the Huntsville Times, and the City of Huntsville. This partnership developed a novel way to meet the goal of making books and other media more accessible.


The Project

Partners adaptively re-purposed unused Huntsville Times newspaper racks by converting them into free library book borrowing stands. Each "Book Box" is placed in an easily accessible and heavily walked area of the city center, such as outside high-density residential units, office buildings, and the downtown YMCA.

Adding Art

However, rather than simply replace newspapers with books in these unused stands, the partners also included an emphasis on public art. To accomplish this, Arts Huntsville promoted the project among the local arts community. Local artists were invited to submit proposed Book Box designs and the winners were commissioned to create one box each.

Once the current locations were selected and the Book Box designs were completed, the Public Library system stocked the boxes with books. The Public Library carefully and continually stocks the Book Boxes with titles and genres that appeal to all ages.


The Book Box program has been popular throughout the city, with more than 2,000 books borrowed in the first year! To date, the Book Boxes have received extensive print, television, and social media coverage. Examples include:

  • New Downtown Book Boxes unveiled today in quirky kaleidoscope of designs Read More
  • Colorful Book Boxes Come to Downtown Huntsville Read More
  • Soon you can browse, borrow, share books at new Downtown Book Boxes Read More
  • Downtown Book Boxes Coming to Huntsville Read More
  • Downtown Book Boxes offer free reading this summer Read More

The Book Box program won Downtown Achievement Pinnacle Award in 2016.