Celebrating Twenty Years of The Lisa Libraries
Hi, readers! It’s been twenty years since I started collecting new children’s books to send to kids in under-served areas. This was the beginning of The Lisa Libraries, a non-profit organization founded in memory of a publishing colleague. Back then, the second bedroom in my New York City apartment served as the storage facility, and I used the closets (and eventually the floor!) to store the cartons of donated books. Whenever it was time to ship out a collection of books, I relied on friends to come over to help sort, organize and pack up the mini-library.
The Lisa Libraries started out very small, but it soon became apparent that my little bedroom could not handle all the donations we were getting. Elisa Geliebter, a long-time friend and colleague (who now runs The Lisa Libraries), took on the task of finding a new location for us. When we moved to our new space in Brooklyn, NY, we gained floor-to-ceiling shelves and actual aisles! This additional space gave us the ability to handle more books and deliver more libraries where they were badly needed.
When we decided to leave the city for upstate New York (where I was already living), Elisa found new space for The Lisa Libraries in an old shirt factory in Kingston. It’s a renovated brick building with a lot of history, and our neighbors include businesses, artists, and the residents of several loft apartments. The good news is that we still have the room we need to handle our many donations as the Lisa Libraries continues to grow. We’re fortunate that we get new, unused books from many sources, including reviewers, editors, and publishers. In addition, artists and authors often donate copies of their own books.
In the early years of The Lisa Libraries, we usually learned of organizations in need through word-of-mouth. Now we have a website (www.lisalibraries.org) and a more organized process for our library donations. Recipients include foster care agencies, inner-city community centers, day-care centers, and shelters serving battered women and their families
We put together a special collection of books for each organization depending upon their needs, and can offer hardcover and paperback books, fiction and nonfiction, board books, picture books, books for middle-grade readers and young adults, and books in Spanish and French.
When we began The Lisa Libraries, we didn’t keep track of every book that came in and went out, but we now have a computerized scanning system that lets us know exactly what our inventory is at any time. An amazing group of volunteers processes all of our donations by scanning the books into the system, shelving them according to category, assembling the requested libraries, and finally packing and shipping the new books off to each organization.
Since 1990, we have donated over 350,000 books! This year alone, we have shipped over 23,000 books to 34 sites that serve needy children. It’s been gratifying to know how many children have received new books through The Lisa Libraries and through the dedication of so many people. If you get a chance, please check out the photo link to see pictures of some of our volunteers working together to put books into the hands of eager young readers!