Helping others one page at a time
By Allison Kridle
Local Org supports learning and literacy free of charge
Over the past year, local non-profits like The Connected Chef and Astoria Mutual Aid Network have been working endlessly to provide our community access to food and other necessary resources. In July of 2020, local AMAN volunteer, Liah Paterson, joined forces with her co-organizer, Pilot Viruet, and started The Rolling Library, which supplies neighbors with free books and aims to promote literacy.
“I had previously handed out food at NYCHA housing and was approached by a neighbor who said that they wished someone would hand out books and support literacy the way they did food. I put out a call for others interested in the effort and Pilot reached out because they had been interested in organizing a similar event. Initially, we planned for one large book fair, but after we handed out nearly 3,000 community-sourced books in one day, it became obvious that accessible literature is necessary,” Paterson said.
While The Rolling Library has a bookstore-type space at the Astoria Food Pantry off Steinway where readers can claim and pick up books, the non-profit also arranges book fairs, community events, pop-ups, virtual workshops and Little Free Libraries: all free. Last summer, The Rolling Library, alongside AMAN and The People’s Bodega, held a book fair off 31st Street spanning a block of free books and other resources like zines, pamphlets and food.
“We believe that literacy and access to books is not only invaluable, but that it should be treated as a right. Access to these resources allows for necessary escapism, critical thinking skills and creativity. Availability of information and the ability to have ownership over the books we hand out (to keep for oneself or to pass along to others) should not be a radical act. It should be the norm,” said Paterson.
The Rolling Library mainly sources books from donations from neighbors, publishers, authors, bookstores and even volunteers’ personal collections. The organization accepts gently-used books in all different languages. Currently, they are seeking volunteers with bikes or cars to help keep the Little Libraries stocked. For more information, please email [email protected] or check them out online at @therollinglibrary and therollinglibrary.com.