Bibliotecha Manual

Bibliotecha - Digital books need libraries too

Bibliotecha is a framework to facilitate the local distribution of digital publications within a small community. It relies on a microcomputer running open-source software to serve books over a local wifi hotspot. Using the browser to connect to the library one can retrieve or donate texts. Bibliotecha proposes an alternative model of distribution of digital texts that allows specific communities to form and share their own collections.


Welcome to the Bibliotecha manual! This guide serves as a human-friendly document for setting up an offline-first local library for yourself and your community.

Go Slow, Make a Plan

There is nothing really easy about diving into this system administration work and getting things up and running but on the other hand there is nothing so complicated that it cannot be figured out. In short: you can do it!

The two most important things to take into consideration before starting are

  • Choosing a "route" through this documentation (see just below).
  • Reading the Prerequisites section very closely and trying to understand, before you dive in, how things will work with your Raspberry Pi and how it is setup and connected to the internet.

There are 3 routes you can take through this documentation:

  • Cloning: Skipping the entire thing and simply cloning a pre-made copy of a Bibliotecha SD-card onto your new SD-card. You can then plug the SD-card into your Raspberry Pi and Bibliotecha will be ready to go. Skip to the Cloning section for more. This is the moving really fast and don't have time option.

  • Automated: You follow the documentation below: Prerequisites, Pre-installation and finally Automated Installation. This allows you do to the initial setup and then a run convenient installation script which takes care of installing Bibliotecha. This is the moving fast but still want to be involved with the process option.

  • Manual: You follow the documentation below: Prerequisites, Pre-installation and finally Manual Installation. You do everything yourself to get from start to finish. Everything that would be done in the automated script, you do yourself. This is the I have time and want to learn a lot option.


Bibliotecha is made specifically for use on the cheap and widely accessible Raspberry Pi single board computer and the Debian based Raspberry Pi OS.

You should follow the official setup documentation on the Raspberry Pi website in order to get your board up and running. You will need it to have access to the internet in order to download the necessary packages as well as access to the command-line.


You must use an Ethernet cable to connect your Raspberry Pi to your router and not use the Wifi connection. This is because the Bibliotecha install process will overwrite the Wifi configuration. So, you also must have access to your router before going further.

Here is an example of what we did.

Below: Here we plug the gray ethernet cable into the router.


Below: And then we plug that same gray ethernet cable into the Raspberry Pi.



The ethernet cable is not required after you finish the installation of Bibliotecha! Your Bibliotecha can now operate independent of an internet connection and offers its own Wifi access point. So, the ethernet cable is only required for the installation process. Later, if you need to do an update or some maintenance which requires an internet connection, you can plug it back in and make sure to check this tip.

The current latest Raspberry Pi 3 B+ model is recommended. This model is chosen because it offers a built-in wireless card for convenient networking and a sufficient memory allowance of 1GB. It is possible to use other models of board but they should at least provide these guarantees.

Raspberry Pi OS (formerly "Raspian Buster") is the current latest recommended version of the standard Raspberry Pi operating system. Etcher is a useful and simple tool for flashing the operating system onto the SD card which you will plug into your Raspberry Pi. You can also use the dd command.

Here is the dd command we use:

$ sudo lsblk  # to see the value for the `of` argument (e.g. /dev/mmcblk0)
$ sudo dd bs=4M if=2020-08-20-raspios-buster-armhf-lite.img of=<YOUR-DEVICE-HERE> status=progress conv=fsync


Before getting started, we need to perform some preparatory steps. These steps must be completed successfully before moving on with the rest of the guide.

You should run the following commands at the command-line interface of your Raspberry Pi.

Firstly, we switch our user to the root account:

$ sudo -i

We then perform the initial system update and upgrade:

$ apt update
$ apt upgrade

This step may be not needed but it has been reported a few times. You need to unblock the Wifi device. In order to do this, you'll need to run the following.

$ apt install -y rfkill
$ rfkill unblock wlan

We should then perform a number of steps within the raspi-config tool:

$ raspi-config
  • Change the user password

    • Choose the System Options > Password option.
    • It is important to configure your Raspberry Pi with a secure passphrase. A diceware passphrase is a recommended approach for choosing a sufficiently strong passphrase.
  • Choose a hostname

    • Follow the System Options > Hostname options.
    • The hostname will be the name that identifies the Raspberry Pi on the local network.
  • Configure predictable network interfaces

    • Follow the Advanced Options > Network Interface Names options.
    • It is important to enable predictable network interface names so that the automatic installation script can detect which network interfaces are in use.
  • Expand the SD card partition

    • Follow the Advanced Options > Expand filesystem options.
    • This allows more space on the SD card to be used. This is important for when you will start to place more and more digital books in your Bibliotecha.
  • Configure the localisation

    • Follow the Localisation Options > Change Locale options.
    • It is recommended to ensure that the en_GB.UTF-8 UTF-8 locale is selected. This is the default. Once this is selected, select <Ok> on the two following dialogs to generate the locale.
  • Configure WLAN country

    • Follow the Localisation Options > Change WLAN Country options.
    • This is actually really important or the rfkill related step above will keep your Wireless device disabled.

The Raspi-config interface then asks you to restart the Raspberry Pi which you should do. If not, you can also run this from the command-line:

$ reboot

Remember, you will need to use your new user passphrase to access the Raspberry Pi after rebooting it. Make sure you store this passphrase somewhere safe!

Also, please note, if you did run the rfkill commands above, please check that when you reboot, the message shown when you log back in does not say that the Wifi device is still blocked. You may need to fiddle with rfkill and the raspi-config WLAN country settings.

Automated installation

It is now time to run the automatic installation. This script will install and configure all the necessary moving parts of Bibliotecha.

If you're interested in doing this process manually (for the purpose of learning, for example), a Manual installation guide is provided.

If you would first like to read the script, the source is available.

On the Raspberry Pi once again, run the following commands:

$ sudo -i
$ curl | bash

The script will automatically reboot your Raspberry Pi when it is finished.

If you run into any issues, please see the Troubleshooting section.


After rebooting, there should be a Wifi hotspot available with the name Bibliotecha. You should wait a few minutes for this hotspot to become available. This Wifi access point is being served from the Raspberry Pi. You should be able to connect to this Wifi. It is not password protected.

Once connected you should be directed to the so-called "captive portal" of the Bibliotecha where it explains how to enter the library and use it. The library should be available locally at http://bibliotecha.library.

It is recommended to customise your captive portal page to suite your own needs. This file is available in the /var/www/bibliotecha/index.html location. You should also take a look at customising your /etc/motd SSH welcome banner.

You will be required to configure the Calibre-web installation. Extended configuration documentation is available from the Calibre-web wiki. The most important part is the "Location of Calibre database" for which you can enter the following path:


This is the default installation path used by the installation script.

You may also want to look at the "Feature Configuration" section where you can decide whether to allow uploading, anonymous browsing and allowing public registrations. These depend on your context and for who you will serve the library to.

Click "Submit", "Login" and you will be redirected to the library login page. The default adminstration password login details are:

Username: admin

Password: admin123

You should change these details to secure your adminstration account.

Maintaining a Community Library

Once your Bibliotecha is configured you can start to think about how you and your community would like to maintain the library. You should ask yourself some questions:

  • Who will be the digital librarians? The catalogue will need care.
  • Will you allow public registrations? Will you allow public uploads?
  • How will you publicise the library within the local context?
  • What kind of library do you want to create? What are the themes?
  • Who will be responsible for maintaining the system?

Understanding Bibliotecha Networking

Bibliotecha uses standard, venerable and stable GNU/Linux networking tools and configuration to enable the local-first networking setup. Installing, running and maintaining a network configuration is no easy topic! However, it is a useful skill to have. Overall, Bibliotecha is made up of the following programs and configurations:

When your Bibliotecha is setup and running, it is doing a number of things. It is first serving a Wireless access point (Hostap) which your devices can connect to. After you connect, your device is given an IP address on the local network (Dnsmasq and Dhcpcd) as well as a local DNS entry (mydevice.library, for example). Once you open a web browser, it will indicate that you need to log into the network but in fact, you are brought to a web page (Lighttpd) which shows you how to reach the library web application (Calibre-web).


Because Bibliotecha is made up of a number of moving parts it is not feasible for this manual to cover all the possible issues. However, we try our best here to provide context, background, useful tips and tricks to help you become familiar with fixing your Bibliotecha. We recommend a DIWO (Do It With Others) approach!

Please make sure to take some time to read Understanding Bibliotecha Networking so that you are familiar with all the moving pieces. When troubleshooting, it is important to narrow down which piece of the puzzle is responsible. To do this, you need to know what the pieces are.

If all else fails, please send an email to the public mailing list.

If someone is online, you may also find us lurking in the #bibliotecha channel on IRC. Here is a web page you can use to connect without having to do any account sign-up.

All of the following commands should be run as the root user.

I cannot connect to the internet from the Raspberry Pi

If you are connecting an Ethernet cable to your Bibliotecha in order to connect it to your local router and have access to the internet, then you might notice that the requests do reach their destination.

Bibliotecha is configured to capture all the network requests it receives and point them to the library interface. You will need to temporarily disable the dnsmasq service:

$ systemctl stop dnsmasq

It should then be possible to connect to the wider internet now.

The wireless access point is not available

The access point is responsibility of the hostapd program. You should check the status of the running service with:

$ systemctl status hostapd

If there are errors, you can see the logs with:

$ journalctl -u hostapd

You may also attempt to restart this service afterwards:

$ systemctl restart hostapd

You may also want to inspect the /etc/hostapd/hostapd.conf configuration.

I do not receive an IP address when I connect

Providing IP addresses is the responsibility of the dnsmasq and dhcpcd service. You should check the status of dnsmasq with:

$ systemctl status dnsmasq

You should make sure that dhcpcd is running with:

$ dhcpcd5

How to upgrade Calibre-web

You'll need to re-connect your Bibliotecha to the internet with an ethernet cable first. Then, you'll need to check to see what are the latest releases from Calibre-web on their release page. Once you have a fair idea of the version you'd like to upgrade to (careful, skipping over multiple versions can easily break things, so better go one by one and check which one works each step of way), then start off with turning off the program and getting into the installation directory.

$ systemctl stop cps
$ cd /var/www/calibre-web

Now, you'll want to pull down all the tags from the remote repository.

$ git fetch origin master -a

Then list all those tags.

$ git tag -l

At this point you should see your version number listed somewhere. You can check check out to that tag, install the updated dependencies and restart the program.

$ git checkout 0.6.9  # latest version as of November 2020
$ .venv/bin/pip install -r requirements.txt
$ systemctl start cps


We provide a pre-made SD-card for Bibliotecha which you can copy onto your own SD-card and get moving fast. This can be useful if you don't want to dive into all the system adminstration work.


We currently offer a 32 GB image, meaning, if you want to use it, you must also have a 32 GB SD-card. If you would like other options, please get in touch.

Download bibliotecha.img. It is greater than 30 GBs in size, so it could take some time! Then unzip the file with the following command.

Plug in your own SD-card into your laptop. Run the lsblk command and take note of the path available for the card (e.g. /dev/mmcblk0). See the dd documentation for more help.

Start copying the image onto your SD-card with the dd command.

$ sudo dd bs=4M if=bibliotecha.img of=/dev/mmcblk0 status=progress conv=fsync`

Then plug your SD-card out of your laptop and plug it into your Raspberry Pi and turn the Pi on.

You should now be able to log into the Pi using SSH or via a screen using the following credentials:

  • username: pi
  • password: bibliotecha

Please change your password by running sudo raspi-config and choosing System Options > Password.

You can now follow the post-installation steps but please note, you will not be required to configure the Calibre-web installation because it is already done!

Manual installation

It is possible to install Bibliotecha manually. This can be useful and fun if you would like to learn more about GNU/Linux networking tools and interfaces. These skills are generally useful but especially so when considering community networks.

The following guide follows the steps of the automatic installation script.

Changing to Root

All commands should be run as the root user.

Change the user to the root user with:

$ sudo -i

Update the System

We should update the system before going further:

$ apt update

This makes sure that we have the latest package listing from the online Debian package list.

Install Networking Packages

We then need to install the networking packages that we will need:

$ apt install -y \
    dhcpcd \
    dnsmasq \
    dnsutils \
    hostapd \

Afterwards, we'll make sure to stop these services running while we work on the installation right now. We can do that with:

$ systemctl stop dnsmasq
$ systemctl stop hostapd

We do want these services to be enabled when we reboot though:

$ systemctl unmask hostapd
$ systemctl enable hostapd
$ systemctl enable dnsmasq

We'll also want to disable and stop the avahi-daemon which we won't be using since we rely on dnsmasq to handle our DNS configuration and serving:

$ systemctl stop avahi-daemon
$ systemctl disable avahi-daemon

Configure Network Interfaces

We now need to configure our network interfaces. The network interfaces correspond to the Ethernet port and the Wireless card. These are how the Raspberry Pi connect to other devices for networking uses.

We need to learn the names of our network interfaces:

$ ip a

The ethernet interface is the name beginning with "en" and the wireless interface is the one beginning with "wl". These are the predictable interface naming conventions which we rely on.

For the following steps, I assume the following:

  • Ethernet: enx78e7d1ea46da
  • Wireless: wlp2s0

We then configure the ethernet interface. We put the following in /etc/network/interfaces.d/enx78e7d1ea46da:

auto enx78e7d1ea46da
allow-hotplug enx78e7d1ea46da
iface enx78e7d1ea46da inet dhcp

This configuration allows the default behaviour for the Ethernet interface. When you plug in an ethernet cable, typically coming from your local network router, you will receive a dynamic IP from that router. This makes it easy to reach the internet later.

We then configure the wireless interface. We put the following in /etc/network/interfaces.d/wlp2s0:

auto wlp2s0
iface wlp2s0 inet static

This configuration sets up a static IP address for the wireless interface. We do this so as to put the IP address within the range of the addresses which we allow in the local network. We will configure this range in the following step.

Configure Dnsmasq

In the /etc/dnsmasq.d/wlp2s0.conf file, we put the following:


This configuration sets up a local .library domain and a range of IP addresses that can be assigned in the - range. It also makes sure to resolve all unknown domain requests to the IP. This is useful for the purposes of the captive portal configuration later on.

Configure Hostapd

We need to set up the wireless access point too. In the /etc/hostapd/hostapd.conf we add:


We also need to make sure that hostapd uses this configuration. We have to ensure that the following is uncommented and present in the /etc/default/hostapd file:


Configure the Hosts file

We need to register the library on the network. In the /etc/hosts file we put the following at the end of the file after all the other entries:        bibliotecha.library

Install and Configure Lighttpd

Moving on, we should install the web server which will respond to network requests and return the web pages of the library interface. We can install Lighttpd with:

$ apt install -y lighttpd

When then need to make sure that the following configuration is available in the /etc/lighttpd/lighttpd.conf file:

server.document-root = "/var/www"
server.modules += ("mod_proxy",)
include "bibliotecha/bibliotecha.conf"

When then create the Bibliotecha configuration with:

$ mkdir /etc/lighttpd/bibliotecha

And then make sure the following is in the /etc/lighttpd/bibliotecha/bibliotecha.conf file:

server.error-handler-404 = "/bibliotecha/index.html"
$HTTP["host"] == "bibliotecha.library" {
  proxy.server = ("" => (("host" => "", "port" => "8083")))

This ensures that all unknown requests are pointed to the captive portal page of Bibliotecha. And when we request the http://bibliotecha.library domain, we are then pointed to the Calibre-web installation.

Install and Configure Calibre

Calibre is responsible for maintaining the underlying database of the library. We can install it with:

$ apt install -y calibre --no-install-recommends

This will take some time as there are many required packages. Once it is finished, you will then need to create a new database for the Calibre-web installation to use.

We should run the following:

$ mkdir /opt/calibre-database
$ /usr/bin/calibredb restore_database --really-do-it --with-library /opt/calibre-database

Configure the Captive Portal

When we connect to the Bibliotecha wireless access point, we will be directed to a splash page where we are introduced to the library.

First make sure we have all dependencies:

$ apt install -y wget git ghostscript python3-venv

Then create a folder for our splash page:

$ mkdir /var/www/bibliotecha

And then we download the default page into location:

$ wget -O /var/www/bibliotecha/index.html

We should also ensure that the correct ownership permissions are configured:

$ chown -R www-data: /var/www/bibliotecha

Install and Configure Calibre-web

We now setup the Calibre-web installation. We first get a copy of the source with:

$ mkdir /var/www/calibre-web
$ git clone /var/www/calibre-web
$ cd /var/www/calibre-web

Then, looking at the Calibre-web release page, we can choose a version we would like to install. As of November 2020, the latest version is 0.6.9, so we can check that version out with the following:

$ git fetch origin master -a
$ git tag -l
$ git checkout 0.6.9

We then need to install the Python dependencies with:

$ python3 -m venv .venv
$ .venv/bin/pip install -r requirements.txt

And finally configure the service to be run by Systemd.

Create the file /etc/systemd/system/cps.service and add these lines to it:


ExecStart=/var/www/calibre-web/.venv/bin/python /var/www/calibre-web/


And we also enable this to run on reboot:

$ systemctl enable cps.service

We should also ensure that the correct ownership permissions are configured:

$ chown -R www-data: /var/www/calibre-web

Setup a new MOTD

When you SSH into the Raspberry Pi, you can enable a nice welcome message.

This is possible bu putting the following in the /etc/motd/ file:

  ____  _ _     _ _       _            _
 |  _ \(_) |   | (_)     | |          | |
 | |_) |_| |__ | |_  ___ | |_ ___  ___| |__   __ _
 |  _ <| | '_ \| | |/ _ \| __/ _ \/ __| '_ \ / _` |
 | |_) | | |_) | | | (_) | ||  __/ (__| | | | (_| |
 |____/|_|_.__/|_|_|\___/ \__\___|\___|_| |_|\__,_|

       Digital books need libraries too


That's it! You should now reboot your Raspberry Pi with:

$ reboot

You can now follow the post-installation steps.


Bibliotecha is made up of the following projects:

All contributions are welcome!

You can also find us on the mailing list.


Contributors to Bibliotecha have been Yoana Buzova, Lasse van den Bosch Christensen, Andre Castro, Lucia Dossin, Max Dovey, Michaela Lakova, Luke Murphy and Roel Roscam Abbing