By: Michael Gardner, Skills of Central PA
PHONE: 814-238-3245 x 313
Chances are you may have done more reading than usual during the past year. Maybe you ordered books online or checked them out from one of our wonderful public libraries. Maybe you found them in one of the Little Free Libraries sprinkled throughout Centre County. If you’re fortunate enough to have one of these community book exchanges near where you live or work, you’re familiar with the convenience of having a source for books close by, the chance to meet new people while browsing the selection, and the great variety of books that are available. Joni Merritt and Amy Benner from Skills of Central PA have been helping to keep some Little Free Libraries in the area filled during the COVID-19 pandemic. Joni is a Residential Program Specialist at Skills; she and her team support Amy at home, at work, and out in the community.
Stocking the Shelves
Joni says keeping Little Free Libraries filled with books was born out of Amy’s desire to stay active and productive during the COVID-19 pandemic. “With social distancing requirements in place, we needed to find creative ways for the people we support to stay engaged, while also keeping them safe and healthy,” Joni explains. “Eventually, we hit on the idea of collecting books and taking them around to the Little Free Libraries to keep them filled. Amy really likes doing it. It makes her feel good to give back to people.”
Joni put the call out to Skills’ staff who gathered books for Amy. “Amy sorts the books and puts together a good mix for adults, children, and teenagers,” Joni says. She also tries to strike a balance of different genres including
fiction, non-fiction, activity books, and coloring books. “Cookbooks are really popular,” Joni explains. Then, Amy and Joni drive to Little Free Libraries in State College, Bellefonte, Boalsburg, and Pleasant Gap, filling them up and shuffling books from one location to another to keep a good selection for various readers. Joni says it’s interesting to see how each Library has its own personality. “The ones near community parks always need more books for kids,” she explains, “and people have been really good about safety. Lots of the Libraries have hand sanitizer hanging from them or sitting inside.”
Want to Lend a Helping Hand?
With warmer weather approaching, Joni expects more traffic at the Little Free Libraries, which also means the need for more books. If you would like to help Amy with her project by donating new or gently used books, please drop your donation at Skills of Central PA’s State College Vocational Training facility located at 1225 Benner Pike, State College, PA 16801. Questions? Please contact Skills at 814-234-2330 or visit www.skillsofcentralpa.org.
In photo: Joni Merritt (left), a Residential Program Specialist at Skills of Central PA, supports Amy Benner (right) and her work to keep local Little Free Libraries filled.