In early April, Whitestone residents will be able to sit and enjoy reading a book of their choosing from the Little Free Library at Francis Lewis Park.
Wanting to make an impact in the community that’s cost effective and beneficial to everyone, Whitestone resident Jonathan Salazar came up with the idea to install a Little Free Library at the park.
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 its website. It is a “take a book, return a book” free book exchange.
Anyone can start their little library by identifying a location and caretaker, deciding where to legally and safely install their library, registering their library building community support, and lastly, adding their library to the world map.
After meeting with members in the community, the We Love Whitestone Civic Association and the city Parks Department, Salazar’s project was approved and he received $1,000 in donated funds to bring his idea to fruition.
“We are very excited about the little library project,” said Alfredo Centola, president of We Love Whitestone. “Mr. Salazar approached us about it and we immediately reached out to our membership for funding. Within days, the project was fully funded by generous donations from our members. Mr. Salazar is on to a great start and I thank him for his commitment and community involvement.”
Salazar created a mock-up of what the library would like at the park itself, he said. Having a bit of graphic design experience, he designed a library and kids reading on a photo he took of the park.
He is looking forward to having a small ceremony at the park when the weather becomes warmer, he said.
“The Little Free Library will be stocked with about 50 or 60 books ranging from all different ages, inspiring the love of reading and being able to share an experience of sitting in the park enjoying a book,” said Salazar. “You’re free to take them home and read them, and bring it back when you’re done.”
Following Salazar’s request for a little library at Francis Lewis Park, Paul DiDio, principal at P.S. 159 in Bayside contacted Salazar to help him work on opening up a library at the school.
The duo created a GoFundMe page and quickly received funds donated from family members and parents in the Bayside community to help build the library.
“As our community continues to grow and change we are always looking for new ways to build partnerships,” said DiDio on the GoFundMe page. “In 1995 Councilman Michael Abel awarded a grant of $45,000 to build a reading garden in the school yard. The garden is a 60-by-40 plot, which is fenced in, features benches, picnic-style tables, game tables and a stage. “
DiDio said it would be a place for students, parents and community members to share books with one another.
“We are trying to bring new life into an area of the yard that is often overlooked,” DiDio said.
For Salazar, the idea of a little library at Whitestone and building another in Bayside is a wonderful feeling, he said.
“It’s a wonderful feeling knowing the community believes in an idea that a community member had,” said Salazar. “They listened to my idea, the concept, they didn’t discourage me. The whole community was involved and it just makes me feel that the smallest little impact can really make a difference.”