MORRIS HEIGHTS — A pop-up library program that originated in African refugee camps has arrived in The Bronx.
Ideas Box, a portable media center providing users with books, e-readers, board games and Internet access, opened up at Hayden Lord Park on Wednesday for the summer thanks to a partnership between Libraries Without Borders, the DreamYard Project, the New York Public Library and the Alexander Soros Foundation.
Visitors to the Morris Heights park from now until Sept. 5 can play chess, read books, watch movies and use the Internet, among other activities, and children were already taking advantage of these offerings on the day of its opening.
"It has a balance of everything: community, education, activities," said Elvin Rivera, a bus driver who lives near the park.
He described the Ideas Box as a great way to keep his two sons busy and learning over the summer.
The inaugural Ideas Box programs launched in February 2014 at Congolese refugee camps in Burundi and have since been established in countries including Australia, France and Jordan. The program in Morris Heights is the first Ideas Box in the United States.
Allister Chang, executive director of Libraries Without Borders, said that Hayden Lord Park, located at 1675 Andrews Ave. South, was in a perfect spot for connecting the Ideas Box with the types of people it tries to serve.
"At this park, we are in the middle of several different low-income housing communities," he said. "That's our target user group."
The standard Box contains 15 tablets, four laptops, 50 e-readers, 5,000 e-books, 250 hard copy books, a movie screen and projector, 100 films, board games, video games and a satellite Internet connection.
It will be open in The Bronx from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and although it is currently slated to shut down over Labor Day weekend, organizers have launched an online fundraising campaign to keep it open beyond September.
Their goal is to raise $60,000, and they have raised $20 so far after one day.
Public Advocate Letitia James praised the Ideas Box as a new model for libraries where children would no longer have to worry about getting shushed.
"Libraries are no longer places where individuals can be quiet," she said. "Libraries are interactive, and they can teach them coding, teach them art, teach them science and also teach them the love of the word."
Rocio Torres, 10, said it could be tough to stay busy over the summer, but she was confident that the Ideas Box would help her find things to do.
She was particularly enthusiastic about the iPads and saw Hayden Lord Park as a good chance to socialize and meet people as well.
"I think I will get new friends in here," she said.
The park is named after DreamYard Co-Executive Director Tim Lord's son, who passed away in 2000 from Tay-Sachs disease.
Lord described the Ideas Box as an effective way to make sure that children in The Bronx do not fall behind their peers while they are not in school over the summer.
"We can make a difference by investing in opportunities like this," he said, "where young people throughout the summer can be reading and learning."