The Marketplace is now home to two shelves full of books — but instead of merely being lost after the daily lunch rush, these books have been left there on purpose as part of the new Fireside Lending Library.
The Fireside Lending Library is located in the shelves along the side of the fireplace in the Marketplace, across from Gardentoss. According to Keegin, the shelves have always been there, but never utilized. They were rediscovered during a tour of the New Union while staff were looking for potential ways to update the Marketplace space.
Jennifer Keegin, associate director for campus activities at Binghamton University, is coordinating the collaboration between the building managers for New University Union and the office of Campus Activities.
“The University Union [and] Campus Activities office have been talking a lot about … ways to make the Union even more friendly for students, and a place that students and faculty and staff are gonna want to hang out and spend some time and feel comfortable,” Keegin said.
More inspiration for the Lending Library came from the presence of a Little Free Library in the Vestal Hills neighborhood, on the lawn of a private home between the BU campus and University Plaza. This library was vandalized over the summer, but the community came together to rebuild it — confirming, for Keegin and the New Union staff, that books can be a powerful force for community-building.
To kickstart the library, staff from the Division of Student Affairs donated the initial books, and once the shelves were full, the staff began publicizing the shelves for other members of the campus community. Keegin said that faculty and staff have been the largest sustainers of the library so far, and are invited — along with students — to keep dropping off books. To donate to the library, you can put them right on the shelves, or bring them to the Campus Activities office in UUW-205.
Keegin explained that no staff will be directed to police the books donated, just to keep the shelves clean and well-stocked. She said that they are encouraging any genre, and earlier this week, the shelves contained everything from dictionaries to course books to novels and beyond.
“We weren’t trying to make it too difficult or too complicated,” Keegin said. “We were just trying to say, ‘Here’s a place to put books,’ and kind of letting it do its thing.”
The team behind the Fireside Lending Library is hoping to piggyback off of the success of the free book tent, which used to be a feature of University Fest, before it was canceled when it became too expensive for the University to maintain.
“Everyone loved getting the free books, so we knew that there was a need on campus and that people would really get into that, because people always enjoyed the book tent at University Fest and we hated to see it go,” Keegin said.
In the future, Keegin said she hopes to continue improving the atmosphere of the New Union through art initiatives. Two plans in the works are installing more student art in the Marketplace and developing a New University Union timeline. For now, though, the countdown is on for chilly weather — and days spent curled up by the fireplace with a book from the library.