BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Libraries in New Jersey are just now beginning to open for curbside pickup after months of being limited to online activity. But it’s still not safe to browse through the stacks, a problem that the Little Free Libraries scattered about Bloomfield are here to solve. All nine of them have been being stocked and taken care of during the COVID-19 pandemic by Bloomfield High School librarian Karah Iansito and her team of student library volunteers.
“I feel like a lot of people see them and say, ‘Oh, a box,’” Iansito said in a phone interview with the Independent Press on June 23. “If people were keeping them open during the pandemic, I wanted to draw some attention to them.”
Bloomfield residents have been donating books to the BHS on the Home Front volunteer project, started by BHS history teacher Rachel Goldberg, along with a food and clothing drive to help out people in need over the last couple of months. Books sit in Iansito’s garage for a couple of days before being distributed to the libraries, which are all over town. Brookdale, Oak View, Watsessing and Fairview Elementary schools all have at least one on their playgrounds — Watsessing has two.
“I recently started working with the Little Libraries near Watsessing School, restocking books, organizing, cleaning and filtering through books that may need a bit more love and recognition in the recycling department,” BHS junior Sharv Dave told the Independent Press on June 23. “Though I’ve only started this past week, I’m hoping to continue through the summer and the next school year with the libraries.
“Prior to learning more about the libraries with Mrs. Iansito, I knew that many people — including me — were a bit confused with the usage of the library: Do we have to take the school’s permission? Do we really just take a book? Do we have to be from a certain group of people?” he continued. “However, in the past few months with the virus, I’ve seen that many eager kids and adults alike like to grab a book and spend some time in the nearby Watsessing Park, so I’m hoping the projects gain a bit more traction.”
There’s also a Little Library at Vassar Field, and a few more on private property, on State Street, Lobell Court and Park Street.
“It might be on an individual property, but it’s for the whole community,” Iansito said.
The libraries can be built and then registered on the Little Free Library map at www.littlefreelibrary.org. The whole idea is to take a book and leave another one in its place, or just leave as many books as you can for others to read.
“They were doing a clothing drive, a food drive and a book drive,” Iansito said. “I had all these people donating books, so how am I going to get them out? So we started bringing them to the Little Library.”
The student library board members have been cleaning up the Little Libraries, restocking and shuffling books in and out. There’s no system to keep track of how many people are visiting and taking or leaving books, but Iansito said if the same books are there day after day, they’ll be moved around and replaced with something new.
The student library board and Iansito started working on the Little Libraries project only in the last couple of months, as the coronavirus kept them out of school and away from BHS’ third-floor library. But they’re not packing it in whenever things return to some semblance of normalcy.
“I hope to keep it going as long as I can,” Iansito said.
Photos Courtesy of Karah Iansito