Urban Librarians Unite Giving Book Packages to Thanksgiving Meal Drives in the Rockaways

Chistian Zabriskie at the 2013 24-hour read in.  Took place in June.
Chistian Zabriskie at the 2013 24-hour read in. Took place in June.

Urban Librarians Unite (ULU) for years has done library advocacy, and each year fight the proposed budget cuts.  I have proudly participated in several of their events. After Storm Sandy the small group, which is now a non-profit, took up a book donation drive. Nationwide they got book donations, sorted through them, and set up mobile carts with free books in Storm Sandy affected areas. For Thanksgiving they are giving away bags of 4 new books and distributing them at free meal events in various places in the Rockaways.

Christian Zabriskie, the founder of ULU, wrote this article for Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christian-zabriskie/give-a-book-at-thanksgivi_b_4313972.html . Anyone reading this entry please take a few minutes to read his article. He explains how his own family tradition of book giving during thanksgiving made him realize the significance of receiving books as gifts.  And it explains clearly what they are doing for the Rockaways this thanksgiving.

As I read his article I thought of myself. Up until high school I was a reluctant reader, for whatever reason I didn’t have the attention for it. However my parents stacked our house with books, they were everywhere.  Eventually as a curious teen, maybe somewhere between 15 and 17, I found or my dad recommended Robert B. Parker novels, in particular the Spencer novels. I liked the tough guy detective, the gritty dialogue, the humor, and the seedy Boston underworld. After reading the first one, I kept finding more and more Robert B. Parker paperback books. I believe I read at least ten of those novels in a short timeframe. I am positive that is how I got my love for reading. Later in college I picked being an English major because I didn’t know the classics, and I really learned to soak up and appreciate books.

In 2004 shortly after getting my library degree, I went to the American Library Association conference. Luckily I had the initial Queens Library interview, but I also interviewed with maybe ten other public library systems.  By far the toughest question was from the DC library. The interviewee asked me this, paraphrased of course, ‘Washington DC has an alarming illiteracy rate. Now it’s a goal of the library system to improve the illiteracy rate in the city. How should the DC public library go about doing that?’ Without much professional experience I was stumped and I don’t remember my response. When I got back to Toledo and had a shift at Barnes & Noble, I asked my co-worker, a retired librarian, Mr. Mike French, how he would respond to that. He said there is a strong significance in ownership of a book when starting to read. Somehow if someone learning has their own copy they are more likely to read it, and read it more than once.  One of my friends, an educated person, told me he owns every book he read, and he’s my age. So Mike French said one thing the DC libraries could do was really have a lot of giveaways of books. As a public librarian we always promote checking out materials, but there is something special about getting a book to keep.

For several months after Sandy at the Peninsula Library we gave away withdrawn books, and then donated books. That is one of true joys I’ve had seeing excited parents, adults, and kids stocking up on books they could keep. The book giveaways became difficult to manage so we had to stop.  Since we stopped that makes me extremely glad that Urban Librarians Unite is giving packages of four books in the Rockaways when a lot of those kids lives changed by Storm Sandy.


2 thoughts on “Urban Librarians Unite Giving Book Packages to Thanksgiving Meal Drives in the Rockaways

  1. Amy French Giordano December 16, 2013 — 2:15 pm

    Mike French is my father, and it was a wonderful gift to read your post about the lesson he shared regarding the importance of book ownership. It is a lesson I have grown up with, and share with as many people as possible….thank you for the great work you are doing related to such an important cause!

  2. Thanks Amy!
    I really enjoyed working with your father at Barnes & Noble. There was another retired librarian that worked there at the same time named Mary. With conversations with your father and Mary I decided to become a librarian.

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