March 2018

March was a great month for the Camden County Pop Up Library. We’ve seized the opportunity to move our donated book supply from a 10-by-10 storage unit to one twice as large (which, of course, means we can store twice as many books)! With the larger storage unit, we are able to better sort the books by their categories: fiction, nonfiction, religious/spiritual, Spanish, sports, books for-and-by people of color, poetry, cookbooks, science and science fiction, fantasy, romance, mystery, children’s and kid’s, young adults and teen’s, and other. We have have four sorting parties, and would like to give a special thanks to Jessica, Lily, Maddox, Luke, Ivette, Angela, and Colette. When we prepare for a Pop Up Library, we stop by the storage unit and fill the bins based upon the books from each category depending on what kind of PUL we are doing that day. This not only makes our jobs easier; it makes sure that our readers have a myriad of options at each PUL. 

We’ve also recruited three Pop Up Librarians who now set up PULs on their own. A retired doctor in Burlington County sets up his PUL every Wednesday near a Virtua Hospital Site. A traveling RN currently working in Virginia has set up her own PUL with some friends of hers. A family from Collingswood, Lily, Maddox, and Jessica have helped sort and are doing a PUL once a month in Camden. It’s amazing to see that the Pop Up Library Movement has spread from just Camden County to not only other New Jersey counties but other states! Keep up the good work everyone! If you’re interested in becoming a Pop Up Librarian, read more about it here. Note that we do supply the books and can suggest popular locations!

We’ve responded to a cry from some of the folks we have met on the streets of Camden who told us that the Camden County Jail located on Federal Street could use more books. The warden of the jail was wonderful; she took a few boxes of both books for adults and children. This allows for inmates to take a book that they can read with their younger family members when they visit. We are so happy with this arrangement and will be delivering many more books soon. We’re interested in facilitating that painting a mural inside the jail’s waiting room for visitors. Are there any artists out there that want to help us make that happen? Please contact us if you’re interested or recommend anyone. 

The VOA at 1812 Federal Street built a library and we had our hand in helping! We were lucky enough to be given bookshelves by a wonderful woman named Mary who is moving to an assisted-living facility. And, the same day, we delivered the shelves to the VOA. Two carloads of books were also donated by Wilkinson Construction after they found them at a job site. Thanks to the men of the VOA, an empty room was converted to a library in a matter of hours.

The past month has also involved delivering children’s books to DCP&P, CamCare, and a few other places. Through the generosity of their founder and owner, Townsend Press has printed and delivered well over a thousand books for us, including books for children, for-and-by people of color, and in Spanish! We are continuing to do at least two PUL’s a week all around the City of Camden and look forward to further developing our relationships with affiliated organizations.

Very Best,

Tom Martin and Breanna Ransome

February 2018

This month has been full of groundbreaking developments that have and will continue to contribute to the Camden County Pop Up Library’s success and the Pop Up Library Movement. As a now-official 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, we’ve been able to open up a bank account and accept financial donations! We’re working on creating a “Donate” button that should be available soon.

Our website is finally up-and-running, and we plan to publish a monthly newsletter keeping you up-to-date on all of CCPUL’s movements. We hope to include some of our experiences with our readers, where we’ve held PULs, what donations we’ve received, what donations we need, and how we’re utilizing financial contributions. We also hope to touch upon what plans we have for the future and what developments are in motion.

We have designed and printed both new business cards and new bookmarks to distribute to all those we meet! The Facebook page is booming and CCPUL founder Tom Martin has learned so much about social networking and maintaining the page, creating content, and linking out to other sites and organizations.

We have teamed up with Rutgers University–Camden to help students hoping to learn more about nonprofit organizations and grant writing and to help the CCPUL grow bigger and bigger! Rutgers–Camden has a Writing for Nonprofits course taught by Leah Falk, Director of the Rutgers–Camden Writer’s House. This is the second year the course has been offered. When our social media networking developer Breanna Ransome was an undergraduate at Rutgers–Camden, she signed up for the course the first semester it was taught. It’s a valuable course that facilitates a reciprocal relationship between nonprofit organizations and students who want to learn more about them. Breanna met Tom through the networking the course provided and from this collaboration, the CCPUL was officially born! We have never been more excited about being a part of something than we are about CCPUL. The two students that have been assigned to work with CCPUL this semester are eager to learn and have connections of their own to help us spread our influence and building our Pop Up Library Movement! They will be helping us conduct research for grant writing, create a GoFundMe page, and more! We’ve also been discussing the value of having readings for students and free “book fairs” during their lunch periods! There is really no end to the possibilities.

We especially can’t wait for the warm weather to creep up on us and for more frequent PULs to be held throughout the week. We fervently thank all those who advocate for reading, our Pop Up Librarians, those who donate or send their well-wishes, and our readers for being so wonderful and for allowing us to spread the joy of a good book.

Very Best,

Tom Martin and Breanna Ransome

September 2017

On September 10, 2017 it was a beautiful day outside as St. John’s United Methodist Church of Turnersville, NJ provided meals for everyone who shows up each Sunday of the year. Behind the CVS located on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Blvd in downtown Camden, usually over 100 people stop by to get a hot meal. Food is served at 1 p.m. Prior to lunch, another church group gives clothes away in the same location.

This spot is popular for charity-based services and provision-distribution for the less fortunate. As a Pop Up Librarian for Camden County Pop Up Library, Tom chose to set up his table with the “Pop Up Library” banner displayed. Five bins of books were set out—two full of children’s books and three brimming with adult-readers. Each book we have in our inventory was donated to us by different individuals and organizations who value spreading the opportunity for reading to all.

Tom’s been setting up a Pop Up Library at this location on the 2nd Sunday of each month now for over 6 months! Many people have come to know him as “Tom the Book Man” and always strike up a conversation. The minute the table is set up, people begin roaming over to peruse that month’s selections. It’s indescribably rewarding to see so many interested readers enthusiastically looking through the books we have available. Lately, we’ve been so blessed with donations, that we don’t have to limit our visitors from taking a certain number of books.

Tom claims that, when he began spending his free time as a Pop Up Librarian, he held prejudices; “I thought I could, (pun intended), judge a book by its cover and identify a reader and a non-reader before even speaking with them.” Just as the saying rings true for books, it does for people. “In retrospect, I realize how stupid it was of me to think I, or anyone, was capable of identifying a reader versus a non-reader by appearances of life circumstances.”

Tom’s PUL Experience

I met a third grade girl who was so excited about the opportunity to take some books with her that she filled her backpack with children’s books, a few nonfiction books, and even two cookbooks! She looked like a caddie on her first day at the gold course, carrying an oversized bag–but with a smile.

I met a teen who grabbed the last available Bible and held it up for all/his God to see.

I met CJ, an ex-heroin addict with four children. We talked about books and authors for awhile, followed by his ideas for his future. I hope to see him next month; I’m eager to see if his plans are set in motion by then. He expressed that he’d like to run a Pop Up Library of his own, one day, after figuring some other things out, first. Wouldn’t it be cool if, some time for now, CJ was writing one of these posts about his experience as a Pop Up Librarian?

As I was leaving that day, I drove past Broadway and Chestnut Street where my friend Darnell gives away food every Sunday afternoon. I arrived too late–next time. I turned down Atlantic Avenue and saw Karen, a frequent visitor of the Pop Up Library at the VOA on Atlantic Avenue, which happens the 4th Sunday of every month. She knows her books. She is one of the main reasons why I have let go of my previous prejudices about people who read and who don’t. She was thrilled to see me: “Tom! What are you doing here? Do you have books?” We talked for a bit with my car idled on the side of the road. A young man was collecting empty cans and putting them in a Hefty bag to take down to the scrapyard on his bike. A friend of Karen’s (also a reader) stopped by as he passed us and took a James Patterson book for himself. The can-collector asked him for a smoke; he obliged.

I’d have stayed to talk to Karen even longer than I had, if I’d had the time. As I drove away under an overpass that carries 676 to Atlantic Ave, there was a man laid out on a sleeping bag, fast asleep. I wondered what he liked to read . . .