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Cary Librarian’s “Grand Adventure” Amid COVID-19

With Lexington’s schools and library temporarily closed because of COVID-19, Cary Librarian Cathie Ghorbani uniquely found a way to bring comfort and joy to eager readers.

Cathie Ghorbani spot checks her Little Free Library line-up.   Photos credit: Ethie Slate

“At the start of the pandemic, I happened to see a post by Lexington resident Jessie Steigerwald about her initiative to empty her own bookcases and match books to readers,”says Ghorbani, who heads Cary Library’s Adult Services. “I thought I would help keep her and a friend who has a Little Free Library in a high foot-traffic area supplied with reading material to hand out.”  

Once Koren Stembridge, Cary director, and Ethie Slate, Friends of Cary president, expressed their support, Ghorbani geared up to create a driveway version of the Little Free Library network, first begun in Wisconsin in 2009.

To launch the mini book exchange, Ghorbani pulled some boxes of donated books, stored in the Friends of Cary office. She remained in touch with Slate, receiving approval to pull more books, especially for children—the biggest area of demand.  Others sent books her way. “I have also been receiving books from people who come to browse, so my wagons are staying full.”

She also posted added puzzles on Facebook giveaway groups, including Buy Nothing Arlington/Lexington and Everything Free Lexington, and on Lexington Mavens.  Most were gone within a couple of days. “Since then, I’ve seen them reappear from time to time on the Puzzled Of Lexington group, created during the pandemic as a way to share puzzles with fellow puzzlers,” she explains. 

On Memorial Day weekend, Ghorbani transitioned from a wheelbarrow of books on the street to the beginning of a wagon train. “I added my little red wagon and lined the driveway with all the books from my garage. I posted on all the Facebook groups I could think of,” she recalls. “My neighbor told me later he watched in wonder as car after car after car stopped at my house to browse and take books.  So I put out a call for more wagons and added two more to the train.”

Elsewhere, says Ghorbani, other people, who realized book sharing was an important aspect of life during a pandemic, have created the Lexington Book Share! (Massachusetts) group on Facebook.  “People post books they want to swap, loan or borrow, and it has been a wonderful thing to watch.”

Ghorbani has found success and satisfaction with her plan. “What really brings this story home are the messages I get later, telling me how excited someone is about a book they found or how often they have stopped by. I also remember the Facebook post from a mom who brought her kids to several driveway libraries.  When they returned home, the kids decided to create their own driveway library with books they wanted to share from their household shelves. I am thrilled to get books into the hands of readers and to be a part of this wider network of community sharing.”



(July 1, 2019 - June 30, 2020)

Summer Reading Programs (Children, Teen, Adult)  $ 9,150
Read It Now, See It Now Collection  $12,000
Museum Pass Program  $ 5,229
Staff Development $ 2,000
Cash Gift to Library $ 6,000
Community Program  $ 400
TOTAL $34,779