If you like books with your booze, you've probably attended a Bookleggers pop-up event. The independent mobile library has been running pop-ups at venues across South Florida each month for the past four years — and those venues often have a tasty drink and a party atmosphere. But last Wednesday, Bookleggers brought its services to readers who'd ordinarily fall far outside its usual audience: the pediatric patients at Holtz Children's Hospital.
Friends of Bookleggers joined up to read to the kids, sharing smiles and a love for all things literary. “[Volunteers] went into different patients’ rooms and each one of them had a different experience with a sick child. I read to a group of kids and got mobbed,” says Bookleggers founder Nathaniel Sandler.
And they didn’t stop there. Bookleggers donated a massive chunk of their children’s books collection to satisfy the interests of patients from infants to teenagers. “[W]e had to put together a selection that goes anywhere from, ‘this is the color red’ to young adult books like Catcher in the Rye… It was interesting to be able to put that spectrum together,” Sandler says. MacMillan Publishers even donated a load of fresh new books, which is ideal for certain patients who shouldn’t risk holding used ones.
Topos Graphics designer Seth Labenz created artful designs for the wheeled carts, provided by Jackson Health Foundation, that Bookleggers used to display the books. Sandler predicts the rolling mini-libraries will remain useful at Holtz for the next 20 years.
“[E]ach floor of the children’s hospital has a common room with games and toys and books…but if you’re a sick kid you’re not necessarily going to get out of bed…[ These carts are] bringing the library to the patient’s bedside. It’s really serving a need. I personally think it’s one of the more impactful things we’ve ever done.”
Both Bookleggers and Holtz Children’s Hospital are now accepting book donations to keep their collections overflowing. “We want to encourage the kids to take those books with them when they leave. If a kid falls in love with a book while he or she is sick, there shouldn’t be a rule that they can’t take [it home],” Sandler says.
As far as future plans for outreach efforts, Sandler is always looking for new opportunities. “It’s fun to pinpoint these small and meaningful needs. I can throw as many book parties in bars as I want, but really being able to go in and change something like this is pretty cool.”
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