February 17, 2018

Jérémy Lachal | Movers & Shakers 2015 — Innovators

Jérémy Lachal


Executive Director, Libraries Without Borders (Bibliothèques Sans Frontières), Paris, France

International Development, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, 2007

www.bibliosansfrontieres.org; ideas-box.org; TEDxParis (ow.ly/JKbhr)

Photo by Bibliothèques sans Frontières

Idea to Action

The ingenious “Ideas Box” is the solution Jérémy Lachal has been searching for: an inviting, modular library that can be delivered to refugee camps from Syria to Burundi. Packed with culturally appropriate books, laptops, readers, even HD videocameras and GPS devices, plus movies and a projector, the colorful circus trunks that compose the Ideas Box can be assembled into a meeting space for 60 people in less than 20 minutes.

Lachal, the well-traveled cofounder of Libraries Without Borders (LWB), has long been promoting libraries as an engine of economic development. But before he could pitch the Ideas Box, conceived by LWB and designer Philippe Starck in collaboration with the United Nations Refugee Agency, as a much-needed solution, Lachal had to convince people that the lack of libraries in refugee camps was a problem.

That hasn’t always been easy.

After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, LWB sent a team to hand out educational materials to the country’s many displaced people. Some of the other aid workers were skeptical that books and communication tools were as important as emergency resources like food and medical care.

“Once [emergency] needs have been met, communities need to begin rebuilding themselves,” says Lachal. “Too often, the tools to build the future are lacking.”

LWB’s makeshift libraries quickly became “safe spaces” within the chaos of Haiti’s refugee camps. Still, Lachal yearned to make them more versatile. “Our greatest pride is the appropriation of the Ideas Box by communities and the creativity that has emerged,” says Lachal, pointing to local projects like newsletters, poetry events, and theater groups. When the Ideas Box lands somewhere new, Lachal can’t wait to see what pops out.

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. This is awesome. I had 3 immediate thoughts. 1) they could include the required elements to make a yurt (something like http://foldedhomes.com/our_shelters_segyurt.html) . 2) These, stocked with targeted information, could be immediate “universities” to teach whatever skills are most useful to the populations in need. 3) I have a friend who is involved with digging freshwater wells in Burundi, I wonder if he’s seen those…