There are probably few places that conjure ambience more than a library with mahogany shelves crammed with books, all centered on a crackling fireplace. So it’s not surprising that when Cape Town International Airport scored badly on its ambience rating, someone came up with the idea of putting in a library.

flybrary south africa

In June, after a R4 million renovation, the Flybrary opened its doors, or rather, its shelves. Some 7,500 books were on offer, with the idea being that anyone who was coming off a plane would give in a book they’d finished on the flight and take another from the Flybrary with them. The library is not manned and is run on an honour system.

The idea of having a library in an airport is not new, but it hasn’t been done in many places. Amsterdam’s Schipol opened what it claimed was the first in 2010, although it is closed at the moment because of rebuilding at the airport.

Several smaller U.S. airports, most recently in San Antonio, Texas, have teamed up with local libraries to offer e-book downloads for a limited time at kiosks in their airport.

But as for honest-to-goodness libraries with real books? There are very few. So, at a time when bookstores across the world are in decline and people are turning to digital versions of the paper books, Cape Town has created something that reminds us of a slower, mellower time – with ambience.