AVONDALE — Avondale neighbors can now get free books — or donate books they no longer want — at a new pop-up library on Milwaukee Avenue.
Books4Cause, a Skokie-based company that collects donated books and holds book drives, opened its first pop-up library at 2933 N. Milwaukee Ave. late last month.
The library is stocked with children’s books, adult fiction and nonfiction, textbooks and more. Locals can show up and pick out whatever books they like.
Those donating books can drop them off during business hours: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday.
“Our goal is to give away as many books as we can to the community,” Maya Lifchitz said.
Lifchitz’s father, Yosef Lifchitz, founded Books4Cause in 2007, when Maya Lifchitz was a kid.
“His main goal was to make sure books don’t end up in the recycling bin, and when you’re done with the books, they move on to another person to enjoy them,” Maya Lifchitz said.
The 19-year-old DePaul University student is stepping in to help her dad run the business. The Avondale pop-up library is the organization’s first storefront library, according to Maya Lifchitz.
“This is our first tester,” Maya Lifchitz said. “We really want to see how the community reacts. It was definitely triggered by corona[virus] because a lot of the libraries are closing, it’s harder to get books and it’s harder to donate books.”
So far, the response has been positive, Maya Lifchitz said. Neighbors have been stopping in to browse and sifting through the books on a cart outside of the storefront. Maya Lifchitz said neighbors are often surprised when they’re told the books are free.
“People get confused when they see the books. They always ask, ‘Do I have to give anything?’ And I say, ‘No, no, they’re for you,'” she said.
Books4Cause sells some of its books on Amazon, but donates many of them to charities such as the African Library Project and to Chicago-area people who need or want them. The organization also accepts CD and DVD donations, and holds book drives at college campuses, according to its website.
Maya Lifchitz said the pop-up library allows her family to give back at a time when the country is in crisis. The coronavirus pandemic is not only causing book stores and other retailers to shutter, but also hurting peoples’ ability to buy books.
“Because of the pandemic, a lot of people are struggling for income,” she said. “Why charge $1 for a book that we can give away for free? … We’d rather you enjoy it for free.”
The Avondale pop-up library will stay open as long as it’s needed. Maya Lifchitz said they’re on a month-to-month lease and will reevaluate as time goes on. If the Avondale location doesn’t work out, Maya Lifchitz said they’ll likely open a new location elsewhere in the city.
But for the foreseeable future, the Lifchitzes hope Avondale neighbors take whatever books strike their fancy — and enjoy them.
“One of my favorite things about books is the escapism it provides. … no matter what’s going on in the world, you open a book, you watch a movie, you are taken to a different place,” Maya Lifchitz said. “To go into your stories, it’s so powerful, especially now when it feels very heavy.”
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