Excerpts from a “Cool Cleveland” interview, May 2015:
Q: How did the idea for the Lakefront Literacy Project project come to be?
In August 2014, I happened across a beach library in Turkey (not in person, unfortunately, but on Pinterest) and knew Euclid Beach Park, a public lakefront park with beach access on the east side of Cleveland, was the perfect location to expand upon this inspiration. It’s a new Cleveland Metroparks’ property serving thousands of families in Cleveland and east-side suburbs but lacks consistent, educational programming. Enter ‘The Lakefront Literacy Project’, a community-led, volunteer run project co-Founded by myself, Emily Martis and Robert Gatewood – all of whom are dedicated North Collinwood residents.
In our inaugural season, the FREE library – staffed by neighborhood volunteers – will appear at Euclid Beach Park on Saturdays and during special programmed events including Euclid Beach Live! concerts. It will house a rotating collection of books, magazines, and newspapers catering to both children and adults and our English and Russian speaking neighbors. Everyone who passes by is welcome to borrow a book for as long as they’d like.
Thanks in part to grants from ‘Neighborhood Connections’, ‘Cleveland Neighborhood Progress’, ‘The Geis Family Foundation’ and book donations from Cleveland Public Library, The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, Half Price Books, and dozens more households, in summer 2015 The Lakefront Literacy Project will bring literature and a love of learning to the beach with a custom-crafted mobile library, part of the renowned “Little Free Library” network. Our successfully funded Indiegogo campaign proceeds support the “Celebrate! Ribbon Cutting and Kickoff” event on Saturday, May 30th from 11:30am – 2pm.
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Education and connectivity are at the heart of this proposal as we endeavor to bring literacy and a love of learning to all on North Collinwood’s Lakefront… at no cost to participants. We are addressing the lack of reading (especially for enjoyment) outside of the traditional library and seek to instill the sense that learning IS fun by providing opportunities for reading where people naturally gather: at the beach.
This project will enhance communication and connectivity in our community and spur a dialogue about other opportunities for programs and projects in our neighborhood. This isn’t about institutions providing a service, rather, a group of people rallying around common held beliefs that literacy is important and reading should be fun. We see people coming together to share their favorite stories, especially through the exchange of writable bookmarks where participants can leave their notes about the book. Through this project, new relationships to each other will be established as we discuss the possibilities of bringing education into our “play spaces”, such as the beach.
In addition to our promotional materials, word of mouth will bring new people into the project which will lead to more and diverse book offerings, including a Russian language section to serve an often underrepresented part of the neighborhood. Through this project and its high visibility in the park, we hope to strengthen our associations with existing organizations as well as our neighbors and demonstrate that any dream is worth having and any belief is worth pursuing. Beyond literacy, we want to educate our community about how TOGETHER we all can affect positive outcomes in our neighborhood.
Q: How exactly will it work?
The concept is simple: a Free Little Library is a collection of books in a public, accessible spot so that anyone passing by can take or donate a book. Our library will be open from 11:30am to 2pm all Saturdays in June – September and select special events including Euclid Beach Live! concerts. We ask that each person takes just one book, magazine or newspaper at a time and returns it to the collection when they are finished reading – which could be later that same day or three weeks later. Our books each feature a custom designed bookplate and while we know some material will walk away forever, we hope the bookplate will help keep our collection strong. Currently, our collection is large and varied and represents the neighborhood well. We carry a significant collection of Anisfield-Wolf Book Award nominations donated by The Cleveland Foundation. For consideration, the books must make important contributions to our understanding of racism and cultural diversity. The annually awarded prize in its 80th year. We have a collection of Russian language books including fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. Whether you are looking for healthy cookbooks, Harry Potter, or just want to enjoy the breeze while flipping through national and local magazines and newspapers, you can at our library!
Q: How can the community get involved?
The greater Cleveland community has been wonderful so far and we are thrilled to be paying it forward by providing this amenity at the beach. Via our Indiegogo crowd funding campaign we received donations as far away as New Jersey. We created an email address, email@example.com which has been inundated by people asking where and when they can drop off books! The best way is to donate the books directly to the library on Saturday afternoons. Northeast Shores Development Corporation, our fiscal sponsor, will take donations of books 9-5pm Monday through Friday. We are also in need of volunteers to staff the library from 11:30am to 2pm on Saturdays this summer. Volunteers can indicate their interest and availability via this form: http://goo.gl/forms/78iLvKsBJv
Euclid Beach Park address:
16250 Lakeshore Boulevard, Cleveland, OH