What have the Syracuse Little Free Libraries been up to this summer?

Donnie & her husband in front of a truck full of books donated by the Cicero UMCAn update from Professor Jill Hurst-Wahl

In the spring, several book drives were held in order to have more books available for the Little Free Libraries on the Near Westside. The largest book drive was held at Syracuse University, although books were donated by people from the larger community. In all, nearly 2000 books were donated, including books for toddlers, older children and adults. An article was written about that book drive which notes that the book drive was part of an effort to make the Little Free Libraries more sustainable.

One of the local elementary schools held its own book drive and collected several hundred books that are appropriate for children their own age. What a joy to hear of chidren donating books for other children! The third book drive was held by the Cicero United Methodist Church, whch collected approximately 700 books. Books from all three book drives are being split between the three Little Free Library locations at 323 Gifford St., 601 Tully St. and 300 Otisco St., and should keep them filled with books through the winter.

Thanks to everyone who donated a book! A big thank you to members of the Cicero United Methodist Church, who collected, sorted and put bookplates in them (until they ran out of bookplates!). We appreciate your efforts!

What did we learn from the book drives?

First, we learned that people are very willing to donate used and new books, when they know that the books are going to a good cause. And, yes, some people did purchase new books for the Little Free Libraries. What a joy to know that someone took their time and money to select a book that will be read by a person they will never meet.

Second, we heard from community residents and other people who have a Syracuse connection who wanted to donate money to the Little Free Libraries. The iSchool at Syracuse University created a way for people to donate money through its web site and earmark that donation for the Little Free Libraries. These cash donations will be used to purchase new and used books for each Little Free Library. The iSchool will work with the community caretakers of the Little Free Libraries to select the books that are to purchased. While purchasing books will be helpful, we know that a book drive will need to be done in spring 2013 in order to have a good influx of books. We know that we learned valuable lessons from the books drive this spring, so that we might be even more organized next year.

Third, we learned that “processing” book donations is time consuming. Processing means sorting through them, putting in LFL bookplates and bookmarks, and then boxing them so they can easily be delivered to one of the LFLs. It doesn’t sound time consuming, but anyone who has sat with several hundred books can tell you that it is. Which brings me to…

So what is next?

This summer, Loranne Nasir has taken on the mission to make the Little Free Libraries more sustainable. while not requiring a team of people to oversee them. She is looking at our processes and putting in place new procedures. Most of her efforts would be boring to you, but are important to us. One that many people will see is that we hope to replace the bookplates with a stamp. The design is not yet finalized, but we already know that using a stamp will save time. (You can see a draft version above.) And while members of the Near Westside community may not know Loranne, each one who takes a book out of a Little Free Library in the coming months will be touched by her work.

By the way, you may wonder why we take the time to put information into each book that associates it with the Little Free Libraries. We see that information as essential to educating people about the Little Free Libraries. We know that books will go into the LFLs without that information. We also know that eventually all books will go into the LFLS without that information, but for now we see it as being important since many members are still learning about these structures.

Each week brings new things for Loranne to consider. For example, this week we received an email message from an author, who wants to do a program at one of the Little Free Libraries. While we’re not setup to handle something like that, we had to discuss who in the community might be. Is there someone or some organization that would be interested in hosting events that are somehow related to the Little Free Libraries? We don’t know the answer to that… yet… so stay tuned.

A year ago

It has been nearly a year since the idea of having a Little Free Library in Syracuse surfaced. Some might look and think that we haven’t done a lot. I mean…we have only imstalled three of them. But look at what went into those three. We had teams of students from the SU School of Information Studies and the College of Visual and Performing Arts get involved with members of the Near Westside community to design the LFLs and make initial decisions about the types of books we wanted them to house. We held a book drive that collected many more books than expected. We grabbed media attention, both in the Syracuse region and nationally. We built partnerships with other organizations in the region. And we distributed hundreds – HUNDREDS – of books to community members. That was our goal…to get books in the hands of people who wanted books to read. Each book that makes into the hand of someone on the Near Westside is a success for the project… and is a reminder of why we started this project and why we hope it will continue.

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