New Rochelle has joined the “Little Free Library” movement: Five “Pop-Up Library” kiosks have been installed in public parks, with two more to follow in the next few weeks. The concept is simple: Take a book or leave a book. The goal is to promote literacy and the love of reading, and to build a sense of community, while also creating unique public art, because each of New Rochelle’s library kiosks was embellished by a different artist.
The Pop-Up Library kiosks were recently installed and can be found at Flowers Park, Hudson Park, Huguenot Park, Lincoln Park and Paws Place dog park at Ward Acres Park. Each has been stocked with books and will be maintained by a volunteer “steward.”
Six artists were chosen including Laura Heiss of Mamaroneck and Charles Fazzino, one of the most popular and highly collected pop artists of all time. Each received one of the Little Free Library pre-assembled kits to complete.
Every one of the finished kiosks reflects the artist’s unique vision. Artist Laura Heiss, a retired art teacher who is now the Director of the Museum of Arts & Culture at New Rochelle High School, created her kiosk as a tribute to Rosie, her sheepdog. She says the “milk bone meteor shower” and “raining dog biscuits” designs are frequent themes in her art work -- and obviously artist Red Grooms was also a source of inspiration with his wit and whimsy. Heiss’ design has been installed at Paws Place, the dog park that is part of Ward Acres Park.
Laura Heiss is very active at the Mamaroneck Artists Guild in Larchmont. She was born and raised in New Rochelle where Hudson Park provided a childhood of adventure. “Swimming, building rafts, hide and go seek…..but best of all, an occasional art lesson in the gazebo overlooking Long Island Sound. I don’t remember who she was, or why she was there, but the best day of my life was when that sweet old lady handed me a pad and pencil and showed me how to put it all down on paper.” Twenty years later Laura Heiss became an art teacher in the New Rochelle School District, starting out at her alma mater, Trinity School and ending the best 40 years of her life at Albert Leonard Middle School before becoming the director of the Museum of Art & Culture. Heiss holds a Bachelor’s degree in Fine and Studio Arts from the State University of New York at Cortland.
The worldwide book-sharing movement began in 2009 when Todd H. Bol created the first Little Free Library book exchange and placed it in his Hudson, Wisconsin, front yard in tribute to his mother, who had been a teacher. Ten years later, his idea has snowballed, with more than 80,000 Little Free Libraries in all 50 states and 90+ countries, from Argentina to Zambia.
Because of these Little Free Libraries, more than 120 million books have been shared and thousands of neighbors have connected for the first time!
There will be a dedication celebration for New Rochelle’s Pop-Up Libraries on Tuesday, May 14th. The date was chosen to tie into the Little Free Library organization’s 10th anniversary celebration the week of May 17th. During this week everyone is invited to visit a Little Free Library and share a book, then share that experience by posting a photo on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #LFL10. The Little Free Library organization will be looking for posted photos and randomly selecting participants to receive a $20 e-gift card to its online store!