LOGAN SQUARE — A week before the all-volunteer staff of the Read/Write Library planned to call their summer of biking and of sharing literature a success, the custom tricycle at the center of the project was stolen from a staffer's Logan Square yard.
Nicknamed the "Bibliotreka" — a play on "biblioteca," the Spanish word for "library" — the three-wheeled cart was the centerpiece of Read/Write Library's new community outreach strategy.
"It's kind of a sad thing that somebody would take a volunteer-run library bike," outreach coordinator Amanda Meeks said. "I don't think anyone who knew what it was used for would have stolen it."
Formerly the Chicago Underground Library, Read/Write Library collects local media including journals, handouts and independently published magazines and catalogs them for the public to read at
Their stated goal is "to examine the creative, political, and intellectual interdependencies of a city, tracing how people have worked together, who influenced whom, where ideas first developed, and how they spread from one publication to another."
Since its objective is to catalog a massive archive of limited-edition publications, the 7-year-old nonprofit doesn't sell or loan out materials, but makes them available to the public at its Humboldt Park location.
Hoping to share their materials outside of the brick-and-mortar storefront, Meeks reached out to Gabriel Levinson, who recently had put his custom-built $3,000 Haley tricycle cart in storage after wrapping up his 3-year book bike project.
"It was perfect for us," Meeks said. "We were taking the bike to different events at the Comfort Station, and Printer's Row and other arts organizations in the neighborhood, and just letting people browse our selection of materials. That's what we were using it for and what we intended to keep using it for."
But sometime between 1 and 8 a.m. Sunday, the bike was stolen from volunteer Emily Lofquist's gated front yard, where it was locked to a fence.
"My boyfriend and roommate noticed it was gone this morning, and they were fighting about who was going to have to tell me," Lofquist said.
"I didn't believe it," she said. "We've had people tag the bike before, which was really frustrating, and I was scared someone would tag it during the Logan Boulevard Festival ... but this was the last night of the festival. And I thought, 'Oh, this is going well.'"
The three-day Boulevard Fest brought big crowds near Lofquist's home on the 2900 block of Logan Boulevard this weekend, which she and Meeks suspect helped cover the noise of the U-lock being cut.
Lofquist is one of three volunteers who rode the trike around Chicago, and she often stores it at her apartment near the Comfort Station, where she works and frequently parks.
Lofquist has been hanging posters around the neighborhood with her contact information and a photo of the bike.
"I rode it pretty frequently, [and] it's a pretty familiar bike in the area," she said, hoping residents will call her if they see it on the street, or in parts.
"We just want the bike back," she said. "We don't really care if you just leave it. ... We aren't trying to press charges or anything, we just want the bike back. It was a big program for us, and it was doing a lot of good, and had just gotten started."
Meeks said she and Lofquist are trying to remain optimistic, sharing a story from California of burglars returning stolen computers to a sexual assault crisis center with a note of apology.
"There's a bit of hope for humanity I suppose," Meeks said.