By Kaylee Rios
Before smartphones, tablets and social media, there was a time when information was found in books, newspapers and encyclopedias. The Quality Enhancement Program has returned to the roots of reading books to remind students that books are essential for developing everyday ideas and broadening one’s vocabulary. QEP has encouraged students to read more by establishing interactive mini libraries throughout campus called Bookhavens.
Brookhaven College librarian and QEP Committee member John Flores said developing the idea of Bookhavens was not an easy task:
“In the discussions that we deal with SACS [Southern Association of Colleges and Schools] accreditation, there was all this language about education … way above my level of experience.”
Flores said trying to figure out a way to help Brookhaven further align with SACS accreditation, as well as promote the QEP mission statement, was overwhelming at first.
The Bookhaven mission and motto is to promote the concept that reading should be a lifelong endeavor, Flores said. Bookhavens allow students to both take and give books. No due dates. No blocks on student records that show a book needs to be returned. No limits on how many books are taken. As long as there are books being recycled through the mini libraries, the possibilities of checking out a book are limitless.
Barbara Hughes, department assistant for Workforce and Continuing Education, said, “We want students to recognize this is an area that you can take a book, read it here and even take it home with you if you love it.”
He then remembered an article he read about a small London town that set up a free-standing library in an old telephone booth due to the lack of a local library. The community donated books and created a sign-out sheet. “I was so intrigued by that, and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we had something like that here on campus,’” Flores said. “So I did a little more research and discovered there’s actually a national movement known as the Little Free Library Project.”
The Little Free Library Project is a movement that spread throughout the world, according to littlefreelibrary.org. Although there was no official founder of the movement, many throughout the US have taken measures to support the project. From Andrew Carnegie’s support of 2,509 free public libraries to collections of “take a book, leave a book” stations in coffee shops and public spaces, many are able to explore new genres of literature without spending a dime.
Not only are the books free, but the materials used to compose the library stations are also recycled. “I’m also a theater artist and am a part of Kitchen Dog Theater Company,” Flores said. “I was explaining this project to one of the co-artists who I am also good friends with, and he goes, ‘Well, if you need resources, we’ve got plenty of stuff here,’ … And so one weekend, he and I got together and, based on inspiration and plans from the research, we created the first little free library that is now housed in the W Building.”
Georgia Alvarez, administrative assistant of Social Sciences and a member of the Green Team Coalition, said she encourages students and faculty to bring in recycled materials to help build the Bookhaven stations. One of the libraries was built with folders, napkins, water and gesso, which tied in to this year’s Open Book Project theme of sustainability.
Anyone looking to find a book to read can find one in the 14-and-counting Bookhavens spread across on campus. Hughes said: “Our goal is to have one in every viable building. The M Building, I think, already has three. You know the Early Childhood? They even signed on.”
Hughes said incorporating social media’s “throwback Thursday” by encouraging students to take pictures of themselves holding books from the mini libraries was a strategy to bring the Bookhavens to students’ attention. “Every person on this campus, I would be willing to bet, started off reading paper books with their parents,” she said. “So I kind of think that maybe it’s kind of a throwback for their childhood days.”
The Bookhavens throughout campus are expected to expand. Alvarez and Hughes said there will be a special bookcase coming to the TreeTop Café within the next four to five months. “The design makes it really look like a tree.” Flores said,. “which not only blends in with the architecture of that area, but I also think that with the traffic it receives, that it needs to be a really high-quality, sturdy thing.”
For more information on how to donate recycled materials and books, readers can use the Bookhaven map to find a mini library nearby.