Whitestone resident aims to bring book exchange program to his community

Photos courtesy of Jonathan Salazar

One Whitestone resident wants to incorporate reading and the great outdoors to give back to his community.

Since July, Jonathan Salazar had been working with local community groups and the New York City Parks Department to bring a Little Free Library book exchange to Francis Lewis Park — and now his plan is coming into fruition.

The NYU student recalls the summer day when he observed the scene at his local park and thought that it would be “a great place to read a book.” He had heard of the Little Free Library organization and knew that the park was the perfect location to bring an outdoor library to the community.

“I’ve been thinking of fun, meaningful ways to give back to my community and I stumbled on this organization called Little Free Library,” said Salazar. “Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.”

According to the organization’s website, there are currently 75,000 Little Free Libraries set up in 88 countries around the world. The libraries were created in 2009 by Wisconsin-native Todd Bol. The one-room schoolhouse shaped bookshelves were built as a tribute to his mother, a schoolteacher who loved to read.

Jonathan Salazar
Jonathan Salazar

Salazar described the system for the library as one where anyone can “take a book [then] return a book.” He added that the books that are returned can be different from the ones that were taken off the shelves.

His plan for the Francis Lewis Park library is to build two bookshelves that can house approximately 40 to 50 books each. The shelves will include a hook where patrons can hook their dogs while browsing for something to read and a motion sensor light for use at night. The library will not have specific hours and will be open when the park is open.

Alfredo Centola, president of the We Love Whitestone Civic Association, said that Salazar approached him with the idea a few months ago and described it as “an incredible opportunity for the community, for members of all different age groups.”

In the meetings between Salazar and We Love Whitestone, Centola said that the biggest issue that came up was funding — it takes $1,000 to operate a Little Free Library. He reached out to the community on behalf of the library and said they received over $800 in donations on the association’s website.

“The outpouring of support [from the community] is always tremendous,” Centola said.

As the library’s steward,  Salazar said that he plans to visit the site every other week to ensure that there is no vandalism and the operation is running smoothly. If the necessary $1,000 of funding comes in, he aims for the library to be up and running by the end of October 2018. 

“Reading at a late age in my life has changed my mindset and my ability to become the best version of myself and I wanted to share that opportunity with kids, families and adults in my community,” said Salazar.

To donate to the Little Free Library Fund, visit the WeLoveWhitestone.com/donate and write “Little Library” in the special instructions section.

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