This Saturday, the mobile library Bookleggers will celebrate its fourth anniversary in a fashion that could best sum up its run of taking books to the masses in an unorthodox way: by drinking good beer, eating great food, and riding a mechanical alligator. If that doesn't encapsulate Bookleggers' outside-the-box business plan, nothing does.
In honor of the library's anniversary, New Times caught up with Bookleggers founder Nathaniel Sandler and asked him about the successful run. According to Sandler, Bookleggers continues to bring out the best in people who enjoy getting together to celebrate books.
"The underrated things about Bookleggers that people might not know is that the whole thing brings constant laughs. There's something about the act of moving a library from place to place that attracts bizarre behavior, and the weirdness of some of the out-of-print titles and peculiar books are pretty laughable," Sandler says.
"Maybe it's the free stuff; maybe it's the booze that's usually there; maybe it's that Bookleggers is generally a place where people feel they can let their guard down and relax without much pretense."
The Bookleggers community has grown steadily over the past four years, and many memories have been made. Asked to recall his favorite moments from Bookleggers events, Sandler obliged:
Photo by Monica McGivern
That time Bookleggers had a celebrity drop in.
"Legendary avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas came to Bookleggers once," Sandler recalls. "He wildly found and took a pretty obscure copy of Vachel Lindsay's seminal book, The Art of the Moving Picture (1915). We also had [rapper] Spoonie Gee hang out for hours once, but he mostly chilled and bummed cigarettes.
That time a UFC fight broke out at a Bookleggers event.
"The first and only Bookleggers brawl... One guy [was] a seriously intense library advocate who had come to one of our Save the Libraries events to get more information. [The other was] a dude with silver braids who awkwardly
Those times Bookleggers took on the Man in defense of books.
"We realized around the time Mayor Carlos Gimenez was trying to close all of the libraries that we needed to flex our advocacy muscles and drummed up quite a lot of support in the form of petitions and rallies and tweeting at commissioners. I even accused Gimenez in this very paper of wearing clown shoes! Anyway, one of the unspoken things Bookleggers does is work our damnedest to save libraries. Whether it's your grandma's in danger of going in the trash, or the city of Miami's being threatened with massive budget cuts, we'll be there if we can."
The ridiculous places the mobile library has gone.
"The three most absurd places we've had books to date: the Planetarium during a laser light show, the mouth of the Anhinga Trail in the Everglades, and inside Marlins Park during a Major League Baseball game."
Photo by Monica McGivern
The absurd names for Bookleggers events.
That other time Bookleggers used a fake alligator to have some fun.
"At the Zine Fair this year, Lucas Leyva of the Borscht Film Festival stole our library pet, a four-foot aluminum alligator, and took it out on the town for the evening. We were accused of this being a publicity stunt. It was not; Lucas is just an asshole. There were two videos [here is the first one], and it appears Instagram has removed the second because it contained nudity. We were supposed to name [the alligator] that day, but the trauma from the incident has delayed that."
That time Bookleggers celebrated an anniversary two years ago.
"Most people tell me how much they enjoyed our second anniversary at the Downtown ArtHouse (our first home that wasn't my apartment). We let people rummage the entire collection unfettered for the first and only time ever. It was so hot I was sure someone was going to die. Jim Drain DJed. God bless America."
The times Bookleggers has made a difference in the community.
"Putting book boxes at Holtz Children's Hospital and Lotus House has been really humbling. Every time I think about the people who have helped with those projects, I want to hug them."
Photo by Monica McGivern
That time Bookleggers found homes for a bunch of dogs.
"We adopted out eight dogs at D
That time Bootleggers pulled the most Bookleggers prank ever.
"That one steamy time we filled the Wynwood book box with only Danielle Steele novels."
Those times Bookleggers honored Ace Ventura. Yes, those times.
"We have held not one, but two Ace Ventura events because Bookleggers is Miami as hell."
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That time Bookleggers won stuff.
"We beat all the other cultural organizations in a Shinola sponsored art-culture scavenger hunt and were not humble about it afterward. Losers."
That time Bookleggers built a basketball team the wrong way.
"We once fielded a basketball tourney team that
Bookleggers' Fourth-Anniversary Celebration