Library of Water

Iceland has come up with one of the most spellbinding alternative uses for libraries – which also has a place for writers. The Library of Water, illustrated above and below, is “a long-term project conceived by Roni Horn for a former library in the coastal town of Stykkishólmur in Iceland.” The library building now houses “Water, Selected,” which is “a constellation of 24 glass columns containing water collected from ice from some of the major glaciers around Iceland. The glass columns refract and reflect the light onto a rubber floor embedded with a field of words in Icelandic and English which relate to the weather.”

Despite its new purpose, the library has kept its connection with books and literature. “In a small side room, visitors can look at Roni Horn’s ongoing series of books made in Iceland, To Place and listen to a selection of people talking about the weather.” Also, the lower floor of the building “is a private writers’ studio where each year writers are invited to spend a number of months living and working. The residencies alternate between Iceland-based and overseas writers.”

You couldn’t wish for a more magical way to repurpose a library building. And it’s worth checking out the Library’s website just to see the amazing landscapes that provided the water for the Library’s collection. Awe-inspiring.

Library of Water 2



  1. @Paul: Fascinating post, thanks. But “a former library”? So what is the town doing now, in terms of books or at least in terms of a general collection, beyond the works of a limited selection of writers? Reading e-books? Would be fascinating to catch up with town officials by email for the rest of the story. Of course, the presence of the writers should help keep books on people’s minds. But as I see it, that’s still no substitute.


  2. @Chris: Beware. The Tories in the UK and some Tea Party crazies in the States might take you seriously and push for your idea to come true. Haven’t some libraries in the UK already become pubs? Ties in well with this kind of “liquidity.”


  3. “… floor embedded with a field of words in Icelandic and English which relate to the weather.”

    Yes, if I lived in chilly Iceland (note the name), I’d talk a lot about the weather too, as in “when will this winter ever end…”

    Interesting too that the words are in Icelandic and English but not Danish. Iceland is a part of Denmark.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail