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SEBS Little Free Library survived!

Books Free to take

Photo taken on July 22, 2021 by Judit H. Ward

July 22, 2021, Rutgers Cook Campus (Facebook, Twitter): “Photo taken today in Foran Hall with an overflowing Little Free Library: the SEBS book exchange program has officially survived!”

The SEBS Little Free Library was launched in February 2020, a month before the lockdown, to facilitate free book swaps as part of the Little Free Library project. The project was supported by collaborative efforts from various Rutgers units (such as the Chang Science Library of New Brunswick Libraries and the Office of Academic Programs at the Rutgers School of Biological and Environmental Sciences). See pictures taken at the opening ceremony, where several SEBS deans and the NBL library director also praised the initiative.

Books were flying off the shelf during the first month at a worrying pace, making us wonder if we would fall victim to our own success.

Then the pandemic hit with restrictions and closures. The Chang Library closed indefinitely, replacing access to all library resources and services with online-only options. Most Rutgers employees worked remotely, or on a limited schedule on site, watching out carefully for social distancing. With its labs and other research facilities, Foran Hall remained closed, or, better to say, card-access only for select employees in operationally essential roles.

We at Books We Read acted quickly and created the Virtual SEBS Little Free Library in March 202 offering online reading recommendations and links to find books, aware that it could never replace the physical one.

We received several inquiries about the Little Free Library. We were approached by potential donors. We still had books boxed up and ready to go in the library. What we didn’t have was access to the building and any idea about the status of our beloved Little Free Library.

Books on a shelf

Photo taken in April 2021 by B. V. Ward

Then, one day, at the end of April 2021, a photo came as surprise: the SEBS Little Free Library halfway full with books, neatly arranged. We could hardly believe it, but it was true: the Little Free Library had been living its own life during the whole time! With no librarian and no library staff around, readers continued sharing books with other readers, in the true spirit of Little Free Libraries.

I couldn’t wait for the first day when I had a chance to visit Foran Hall on July 22, 2021. It was overwhelming and heartwarming, suffice to say.

Thanks to all who kept the book exchange practice alive during the pandemic. Although the Chang Science Library will be open for limited hours according to the current reopening plans, we are confident that one of our common goals will be under control. We’ll continue to recommend and swap good books!

Want to know more about how it works?