By Bob Uphues
If you plan to do some of your Christmas shopping at the North Riverside Park Mall, 7501 Cermak Road, in the next few weeks, take a few minutes out to browse the shelves of the pop-up library and pick out a book for you or your kids to read there or simply take home with you.
The library – in a storefront off the common area just up the escalator from the food court on the mall's east side – is stocked with books every few days by staff from the North Riverside Public Library, who enthusiastically accepted a pitch from the mall's marketing department to partner on the project.
"Our goal is outreach, to make sure people realize we exist and that they have access to these materials," said Library Director Natalie Starosta.
A take on the Little Free Libraries that you may have seen perched in the front yards of people's homes, people are free to simply grab a book that interests them. There's no need to return it. Instead, said Starosta, the hope is that the book will continue to be passed along.
Lidia Darkova, marketing director for North Riverside Park Mall, said the pop-up library fits in with other non-revenue generating initiatives undertaken by the mall recently, such as commissioning artists to decorate the area near the old Carson Pirie Scott space.
The little library is set up in the front of a retail space that's been empty for about a year, and while construction is expected to begin on a new store there in a couple of months, the pop-up library serves to creatively decorate the storefront while providing respite for mall patrons.
"Our design team created a library-looking storefront, and people are there all the time, reading books and taking a break from shopping," Darkova said. "It's fun and interactive, not just sales driven."
Library staff initially hauled over four boxes of books and audio books to place on the five shelves, one shelf each for children's books, teen books, non-fiction, fiction and audio books. The comfy chairs allow shoppers to take a load off and read a bit.
The shelves are restocked three times a week and a librarian is onsite once a week – the times vary – to interact with shoppers. The book and audio books, said Starosta, are ones the library has culled from its collection or ones that have been donated but the library has no room for.
"The idea is for it to be a place to come, take a book, enjoy, have fun and pass it on," Starosta said.
The pop-up library will be at the mall through the holiday shopping season. And while Starosta said she's not sure if the mall plans on doing a pop-up again in the future, the library would gladly participate.
"You can really do this anywhere that has foot traffic," Starosta said.