Book cart in Long Island City will provide free access to 1,000 books and activities for kids

Photos courtesy of Sarah Obraitis

Book lovers in Long Island City will now have another outlet to pick up interesting reads with the grand opening of a community-supported free library.

M. Wells Steakhouse, located at 43-15 Crescent St., will utilize an empty lot next door to create a space for the community to choose from about 1,000 books collected through the years. On Oct. 15, patrons will be able to peruse the Book Cart on Crescent and participate in activities like arts and crafts, story time and kite-making.


The LOT Fest will take place from noon to 5 p.m. and a ribbon-cutting ceremony will feature the president of Queens Library and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.

Sarah Obraitis, co-owner of the restaurant, said her staff brought in books to fill the shelves in the restaurant and the book cart idea stemmed from that collection.

“It’s a fairly large place and we all spend a lot of time there and we also have a lot of fun with designing the interior,” Obraitis said.” Naturally, we used a good number of book shelves [to decorate the space and] it just started to pick up really cool reading material from bar tenders like cocktail concoctions books. We just had a really neat library.”

Many of the books come from friends, customers and other organizations that heard about the idea. Staff from a high school in Brooklyn that used to be a middle school donated young adult books that were no longer in use.

The Lot, which used to be a parking lot, was turned into a community space with greenery and sculptures. It’s also used by the restaurant staff to play Pétanque, the French version of Bocce ball.

Obraitis said she wanted to create a space where community members could chat without having to pay for entertainment.

“There’s no sort of non-commercial reason for anyone to meet each other, but libraries are one of [those reasons],” she said.

Those who attend the grand opening can also pick up sandwiches, maple pie, caramelized pork rinds and beer and wine from the steakhouse.

The Queens Library will also provide face-painting for children and may also bring their own mobile library.

Patrons can pick up a maximum of 10 books and the cart will be open on most days from noon and later. When the weather starts to get colder, Obraitis said they will wheel the cart into the restaurant’s garage.

Collecting books will be an ongoing effort and anyone can drop off books of any genre at the restaurant. People have also donated sticker books, large art books and DVDs.

The group will also partner with the Queens Library to donate any extra books to Better World Books, an organization that uses money from books sold to fund literacy projects around the world.

Obraitis hopes that the book cart will encourage people to give their old stacks of books a second life.

“Who doesn’t have like two or 20 or 200 books to get rid of?” she said. “Aren’t we all often picking up books along the way, too?”


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