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'Little Free Library' Urges Hudson Heights Readers to Swap Books

By Nigel Chiwaya | June 25, 2013 8:22am
  The Little Free Library, which opened Sunday in Bennett Park, is an honor-system book trading post.
Little Free Library Opens in Bennett Park
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HUDSON HEIGHTS — You won't need a library card to borrow books at Hudson Heights' newest library.

Residents took the wraps off the Little Free Library earlier this week at Bennett Park, giving children and adults alike access to a free collection of community-supplied literature.

The library, a small wooden box that resembles a house, features books for children and grown-ups and operates on the honor system. That is, visitors can take out any book they fancy but are asked to replace it with different book.

"Basically it's a book trading post," said Fort Washington resident Oshrat Cohen Silberbusch, who led the effort to get the library installed at the park's Pinehurst Avenue and West 185th Street entrance. "It's a community project, to leave books that you want your neighbors to read."

The Bennett Park trading post is the latest in a growing number of Little Free Libraries around the country. The initiative is overseen by a non-profit of the same name, which began in Wisconsin in 2009.

Since then Little Free Library outposts have popped up in Texas, California, Louisiana Georgia, among other places.

Silberbusch, 37, was inspired to create an outpost after reading a story about a self-installed library in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. In fact, Silberbusch, who moved to Fort Washington Avenue in October 2012, said the idea was so great that she began working on it in September — one month before she left her Upper West Side home.

"I just really liked the idea that books are visible when people go to the playgrounds," Silberbusch said. "There's not a lot of bookstores in the area, and the libraries are a hike."

Silberbusch reached out to community residents through email listservs and found support for the project. The backing was so strong, in fact, that when Silberbusch created a Go Fund Me campaign to raise $300 for the book cabin the project was fully funded in just a few hours.

To give the library a visual kick, Silberbusch recruited local artist Gareth Hinds, who painted images of neighborhoods dogs on it.

Reaction to the library has been positive, with Silberbusch noting that the outposts book collection has turned over entirely in only one day. 

Park-goers have been quick to praise the effort as well.

"There's so many kids here. I love that anyone is taking the effort to put it out there so that kids get a book in their hands," said resident Karen Buck, who stopped to look at the library while walking through the park. "Everyone's going to electronic everything. It's not the same as having a book."