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Arts and Entertainment

Photos: We Visited The Floating Library On Echo Park Lake

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A "Floating Library" just landed on the waters of Echo Park Lake today, and you're free to peruse through all of its quirky and artistic books and zines as long as you paddle out to it.

It's the first time the Floating Library has taken place in Echo Park and, actually, anywhere outside of Minnesota. The library is the brainchild of artist Sarah Peters, who has been hosting these short-term libraries on Minnesotan lakes for the last three years. This time around, Peter's joined by art space Machine Project, who's hosting the four-day event from February 11 to 14 in conjunction with the Fourth Annual L.A. Art Book Fair, an event mostly taking place at MOCA's Geffen space in Little Tokyo.

Essentially, the Floating Library is a tiny eight-by-eight-square foot wooden raft lined with bookshelves that hold reading materials, with anything from zines to handcrafted books filled with stories, plays, artwork, poems and photography. There are between 50 to 80 pieces of work on the raft, many of which come from local artists and as far as Philadelphia. They also have some of their special reference collections that can be found in bins on the raft. You can borrow some library materials to read from the Floating Library volunteers while you're paddling around the lake, and then return it either back at the raft or in another bin on land. It's an honor system, really.

We rented a paddle boat today and made our way to the tiny raft. Around noon there were already about a dozen rafts on the lake, with folks taking turns checking out materials. The coolest piece of work we found was a wooden box that holds a viewfinder and 3-D slides showing tropical landscapes. There's a book made of entirely of Mylar, which you can open up like a tanning mirror in case you need your base tan—it nearly blinded us in this February heat wave. Another handmade book is an homage to Prince and food, while another is made of fabric containing cloth pages of embroideries of canoes.

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Some of these materials are not your typical books for a specific reason. "These things are expanding the notion of what a book is," Peters tells LAist. "What makes something a book? Does it have pages, words, or only images?"

Peters first came up with this Floating Library idea in the summer of 2013, when she invited her friends to her backyard to build a raft, using instructions from the Internet. She put a call out for books, and she was inundated with offers from artists. Over in Minnesota, people stumble upon the library by raft, canoes, kayaks or paddle boats, and have been "delighted, surprised, or grateful," Peters says.

She decided to bring it over to Echo Park because she has family out in L.A. and often visits the city—it's also nice to escape the freezing cold back home. Peters was curious how the Floating Library would fare in L.A., and saw it as a great fit. "L.A. is a city where it has the components we need: a lake, boats on the lake, people who like art and are interested in art activities, and adventurous people who will do arty things," she says.

As for the experience of the Floating Library, Peters hopes that it will get people to "appreciate water in urban spaces," as well as "find an artwork or a book that is surprising or challenging or thought provoking or delightful to them in some way."

The Floating Library takes place from February 11 to 14 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. It's free to check out the books, but you'll need to rent a paddle boat for $10 per hour to get out to the library. Machine Project members get $5 off paddle boat rentals if you show your member badge. Echo Park Lake is located at 751 Echo Park Avenue in Echo Park. More info here.