Free book boxes keep fiction afloat outside waterlogged libraries

The Brooklyn Paper
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Mini-libraries are letting storm-shattered neighborhoods turn the page on Hurricane Sandy.

Bright orange boxes filled with up to 100 books have popped up outside flooded branches that remain closed in Coney Island, Gerritsen Beach, and Red Hook — and users of the free literature exchanges don’t have to worry about late fees or that pesky Dewey Decimal System!

The lit-depots are a venture of Urban Librarians Unite, an advocacy group that said it wanted to bring Sandy-soaked Brooklyn the joys of the written word, creating a veritable reading rainbow in the aftermath of the storm.

“It’s still pretty rough out there, and we wanted to provide everybody with a bit of entertainment and insulation,” said spokesman Christian Zabriskie.

Zabriskie said the mini-libraries will remain open until the main buildings dry out. He added that Urban Librarians Unite has collected 22,000 books through several charity drives to keep the stands stocked, meaning that paperback fans can choose to keep the tomes rather than returning them.

“If you want to bring them back, that’s fine, if you want to give one to a friend, that’s fine, if you want to put it on a bookshelf, that’s fine too,” said Zabriskie, who added that his group set up the boxes with permission from the Brooklyn Public Library.

A library spokesman did not immediately respond to inquiries, but Zabriskie said the project is a way to remind people that the spines lining the shelves at the local branch are part of the backbone of the neighborhood.

“The library is an essential element of the community,” said Zabriskie. “It’s important that the people in the community know we’re looking out for them.”

Brooklyn lit lovers are giving good reviews to the book boxes.

“Anything that can help our libraries, because they were completely devastated, is good,” said Chuck Reichenthal, district manager of Coney Island’s Community Board 13.

Updated 5:40 pm, July 9, 2018
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