By Frank Capece
The passion for books of Lois Cantwell and Andrea Hirschfeld is undoubtedly shared by many. Their Union operation, bookBgone, makes their passion special and their hard work well worth it.
First, the facts on their operation. Through their efforts they have collected an estimated 30 tons of books which have been redistributed and appreciated by libraries devastated by floods, schools in financial distress, and other unique groups spreading the joy of the printed word.
How often have book lovers pondered what to do with a book just completed? Libraries really don’t want them, and flea markets are an inefficient distribution for most. Sadly, they get relegated to closets collecting dust. For most of us, there is something immoral about throwing in the trash a book that was a friend.
“I knew there are people who want these books,” said Cantwell as she helped developed an impressive redistribution system.
Operating from a small office suite on Morris Avenue, and a portion of the cellar they borrow, these two book lovers have developed quite an impressive redistribution system. bookBgone is not a non-profit operation. They don’t accept financial contributions. They confess that the occasional use of a borrowed van would be of immense help.
The stories of their past distribution efforts would in itself make an interesting read. After storms and floods ravaged the Midwest they stepped up with replacement books. More locally, the barbershop in Newark that keeps kids busy reading, a church program in Cranford, and recently flood-hit Jersey Shore facilities all got deliveries of boxes of books.
Touring their offices cramped with books awaiting a new life, you view recent best sellers, cook books, sports books and virtually every other category. They speak about the receipt of a huge number of mint condition comic books that found a new life entertaining wounded warriors in veterans hospitals.
There are also special deliveries to teen moms and early childhood programs that got pre-natal information books. A music settlement house got a delivery of music related books and sheet music. Hospitals and assisted living programs are recipients of popular fiction.
Cantwell and Hirschfeld tell the story of a call they got from a man moving out of state claiming to have a “ton of books.” They should have taken him literally. As with the smaller orders, the used books found their way back to Union, and were then slated for delivery to new owners.
Within the operation itself is something of an economic lesson in receipt and distribution. Outside the office are the neatly stacked sealed books in cartons waiting for redistribution. Outside in the parking lot is the frequent unpacking and then repacked of books awaiting deliveries to new homes.
The matching operation of available books for effective re-deployment is the other aspect of the operation. There was the home visit program in Passaic County that received the overflow of books from an Essex non-profit. New charter schools are a major receipt of books for their start-up operation.
In this brave new world of iPad’s there is something refreshing for the proper care of our old friends, books, and the niche forged by bookBgone. The 100,000 and growing daily new lives found for books gives some benefit to both distributors and recipients.
If bookBgone has a need, it is to keep the distribution system moving. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.