nbf_wspThis morning, The Uni Project teamed up with some wonderful friends of ours, Daniel Handler, Neil Gaiman, and the folks at National Book Foundation, to try to give New Yorkers…hypothermia!

Below are photos from our coldest reading room yet. In fact, it was simply too cold to create the reading room we all envisioned for Washington Square Park: a browsable selection of National Book Award finalists. Instead, it was decided (wisely) that Daniel and Neil would have a friendly competition to see who could give away those same books to the public, allowing everyone to go inside and feel their extremities again.

In 2013, the National Book Foundation gave the Uni Project an Innovations in Reading Award, and we’re looking forward to creating more reading rooms together, like this one in May. Thanks to Neil, a road warrior who always appears backstage when I’m with The Magnetic Fields, which makes my day. Thanks to Daniel and Lisa Brown for their support of the Uni Project over the years—Daniel not only shows up backstage, he leaps on it with his accordion. Thanks to everyone at National Book Foundation for a fun partnership. Here’s a look at a Uni reading room in this same park in springtime!

nbf_logo_150Watch Daniel host the Book Awards tonight, with Neil presenting an award to Ursula K. LeGuin. Go see them together at BAM on February 17.


The night prior, the secret event sign was stored in an undisclosed location at our dining room table.



Set up early. Set up right. Portable Reading Room.


Leslie gave numbers to people, which allowed them to read, instead of stand in a line.



This lovely woman was #1 in line, and she had a Reading Rainbow picnic blanket.



Daniel arrived early and warmed up the crowd by reminding them that Neil was not early.


Gladiators embrace.


Some taunting ensued.


Daniel seems daunted by ratio of books to temperature. Lots:Cold.


Neil can work a line, the hugs fly.


Preventing a riot, Leslie handing out numbers.




Who wants to read EO Wilson?




Neil and I began to realize that the ratio to worry about was books to people in line. Few:Lots.





Eventually we had to call it, but Neil and Daniel still worked their way to end of the line, meeting everyone.


Thanks gentlemen, for bringing more reading to New York.


Books gone. Authors departed. Time to pack up our lovely, patient reading room cart.


One more reading room this weekend, and then we’ll stay indoors until spring. Thanks everyone for coming out.

More photos of the event posted at Publishers Weekly here.

We're getting a "new" name... Street Lab.

The Uni Project is the work of Street Lab, a nonprofit launched in 2006 in Boston, where we created community-oriented programs for public space. In 2011, we migrated Street Lab to New York City and launched the Uni Project. The Uni began as a single, portable reading room and has since grown into a city-wide initiative offering more than 700 days of pop-up programming in 150+ public spaces across the city. In 2019, we are re-introducing our original name Street Lab to tie all this work together going forward, with much more to come.

For now, details about our programs are available here on the Uni Project web site. Soon, that content will move to www.streetlab.org. Thanks for sticking with us!