The City’s Bookhive

by Hilda Nathalia Raina
18th October 2021
Dotted in parks across the city, Farid Hamka’s free library initiative, Bookhive, blends two simple things: a love of reading and a love for parks through book-sharing.

Cycle or walk past Taman Situ Lembang in Menteng, and you’ll stumble across the first Bookhive, a collective library shaped like a miniature ‘house’. Started by fellow book lover Farid Hamka, the free library initiative was spurred out of his enthusiasm to renew a love of reading and encourage the circulation of secondhand books through book-sharing.

With the on-and-off closure of libraries and reading spaces, access to physical book collections has declined over the past two years. And with it, the small joy of discovery—whether it’s coming across a paperback that’s lingered on your reading list for too long or the small accomplishment of purchasing a bargained secondhand copy. Set on creating a book-sharing system that operates even amid the pandemic, Farid introduced Bookhive to help book lovers get their fix.

“I believe books can take us places. To a different world, with different stories. At a time like this, it’s so crucial we have these platforms of imagination,” Farid raved. For Farid, the pandemic was “eye-opening. Although I grew up here, it wasn’t until this year that I started going on walks and exploring Jakarta, and I quickly fell in love with the city’s charms.” 

Some of his favourite spots are the city’s parks, Taman Suropati and Taman Spatodhea, to name a few, which are now homes to Bookhive, alongside four other park sites. Day to day, it operates on a straightforward system: “take a book, leave a book”. Inside, the shelves are stocked with curious titles ranging from business, agriculture, coming of age non-fiction, coveted best-selling novels, to self-published short stories and poetry. 

“What I love about secondhand books is the journey from one reader to the next. Some of the books we receive are marked with post-its highlighting favourite chapters or handwritten notes wishing the next reader an enjoyable read,” Farid expressed. In the greater scheme of things, Bookhive prolongs the magic of written words by book-sharing. Proven successful: its social media page features readers sharing their Bookhive finds, as well as recommendations and favourites. 

The miniature is enclosed with a slanted weatherproof roof to protect the books against the city’s unrelenting weather, courtesy of their collaboration with design studio Accosa Lab. And in its nature, Bookhive is a cordial invitation to the shared joy of reading, welcoming anyone to spend lazy afternoons on park benches poring over pages for hours on end or simply grab a book to go.

Despite Jakarta’s temporary closure of public spaces and parks, Farid hopes that when the parks do reopen, taking time to sit and read amidst the greenery will nurture the pastime of booklovers and open a new world for city-dwellers to escape and find solace once in a while.

Due to current restrictions, as of the day of this article is published, only Bookhive Lembang at Taman Situlembang is accessible to the public. Operating hours are from 6am to 6pm. For more info, access Bookhive’s Instagram page at @jakartabookhive.