Reflecting on two years of Book Oasis

What our Little Free Libraries in Seattle book deserts have been up to since March 2021.

When the pandemic hit in spring 2020 and everything shut down, kids were suddenly cut off from books. Public libraries were shuttered, school and classroom libraries were totally unavailable; even bookstores and warehouses were closed. And families in communities of concentrated low income were at a particular disadvantage because they were less likely to have books at home already.

As the months went on and it became clear that this would be a long-term disruption, Page Ahead wanted to find a way to create a pipeline of new kids’ books into communities we already serve where we knew families would benefit from more reading material. The Book Oasis project was born!

A video from our all-online A Taste for Reading luncheon in March 2021 announcing Book Oasis.

Custom designed by Peter Sydloski Tesch of Perkins&Will and built with labor and materials donated by Lease Crutcher Lewis, DPR Construction, Lydig Construction, and Lake Washington High School, the first Oases went in the ground at High Point in West Seattle and across the street from Broadview-Thomson K–8 in Broadview in March 2021. Now that we’re two years into this wonderful project, we wanted to share how these special Little Free Libraries are making a difference.

Page Ahead staff, volunteers, and supporters at the Broadview Book Oasis ribbon cutting on March 23, 2021.

There are now nineteen Book Oases across Seattle:

Since those first Oases went in the ground, Page Ahead has distributed 14,563 new kids’ books through Book Oasis! That’s an average of 140 books heading out into the community every week.

Of course, these Little Free Libraries don’t refill or maintain themselves. Our amazing corps of volunteers do that, and they’ve contributed more than 500 hours to Book Oasis refills and repairs in the last two years! THANK YOU, Book Oasis volunteers!

EY volunteers in 2022 with a recently restocked Book Oasis.

So what does a Book Oasis look like in action? 2022’s volunteer of the year Laurie Rich shared this report from the Book Oasis at Puget Ridge Cohousing recently:

It is always a joy to restock this Book Oasis. It is obviously a great source of pride to this community. School was letting out for the day, so a few families came by as I was restocking, and all of the kids picked out books. Parents were as excited as the kids, and I received numerous thank yous. That is the part I like best, talking to the kids and helping them pick out books. Very rewarding!

Laurie Rich, volunteer

We’re thrilled that our Book Oases have become important community assets. And our newest endeavor will build on that—we recently added a QR code to each Oasis that invites neighbors to share their feedback and request particular books. We’re working on requests like the newest Diary of a Wimpy Kid, dinosaur books, Choose Your Own Adventure books, and baby books; your support now will help those books and many, many more make their way into the hands of young readers all across Seattle.

Patient readers wait their turn at a newly refilled Book Oasis.

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