Edgeville Buzz

5 Questions: Karen Dreyfuss and Tom Welch, Edgewater Reads

Tom Welch, the CEO of Welch Consulting, and Karen Dreyfuss, Education Liaison for Alderman Harry Osterman’s 48th ward office, started “Edgewater Reads” in March of 2013 to address the expected gap in services while the Edgewater branch of Chicago Public Libraries was undergoing renovations and to connect our community of readers.  Edgewater’s branch has the highest circulation of any branch in the city. Census data shows that Edgewater is highly diverse (37 percent non-white) and highly educated which means our community is a prime location for increasing engagement with reading! The most visible aspect of this program so far has been the three small, wooden libraries where anyone can donate or borrow a book.  These libraries are located at 1305 W. Glenlake, 1348 Thorndale and 1630 W. Catalpa.

1)      This program began in part to promote the new Edgewater library.  What’s up next now that the library has opened?

Karen: We’re really looking forward to continuing to promote Edgewater as a community of readers.  Edgewater Reads is an umbrella initiative under which a lot of cool things have happened, including the building of three “Little Free Libraries.” We  have a goal of seven more by this summer, likely housed at more local businesses and community gardens, and hopefully eventually at condo buildings and in senior housing.  We’d love to see a little library at every school office. The portable free library will be around at major community events like EdgeFest and the Edgewater Art Fair in the fall. It would be amazing to connect with more local authors, especially Veronica Roth of the “Divergent” series, which takes place in Chicago. We’re also looking to bridge the educational gap between local schools, so that every child – whether that child attends Sacred Heart or Senn – has easy access to free, quality books.

Tom at mobile libraryTom: We’re very grateful to the Overhead Project for sponsoring the last “Community Build” event, as they provided the raw materials for the libraries.  It costs $400-$600 for each little free library.  It’s also been really neat to witness the kinds of conversations that have popped up around these libraries, which depend entirely on the honesty of the community to lend a book, take a book and read a book!  Kids and adults, at all times and in all weather conditions, are utilizing this resource.


2)      What members of the Edgewater community have been particularly instrumental in making “Edgewater Reads” happen?

Tom:  Mike Bartelt of Superior Spaces donated the portable lending library. Seamus Fitzgerald of Overhead Project supported the first “Community Build” event with his time, money and elbow grease.  I’d also love to copy the “Chalk the Block” idea from Rich and Dori Gorman of Community Christian Church, where “Edgewater Reads” information is chalked on local sidewalks.

Karen:  Maria Sigman, the owner of Salon Echo, just put a little lending library in her business. Anne Comeau of the Edgewater Environmental Sustainability Project (EESP) has been a key partner in the process of getting a little library in a community garden space, and Women and Children First Bookstore was fantastic in putting up an “Edgewater” shelf of local authors for the “One Book One Chicago” initiative.

Tom:  Everyone at the Edgewater library has been fantastic as well.  Since the library doesn’t accept book donations, but folks drop them off anyway, they pass those along to us for the little free libraries.  They also donate books that are being weeded out of their collection to Edgewater Reads.

3)      If you could snap your fingers and improve one thing about Edgewater or this project, what would it be?

Tom: I’d love to see a dramatic increase in community engagement around reading.

Karen:  Edgewater is unique in just how much we care about our neighbors. Continuing and expanding that spirit is my goal.karendreyfuss

4)      If someone donated $5,000 to Edgewater Reads tomorrow, how would that impact the community?

Karen: That would go a long way in covering the cost of materials for the little free libraries.

Tom:  We’d also love to be able to print more promotional materials to educate the public about this program – right now we have a few posters and bookmarks, but we basically rely on word of mouth.

5)      How can our community best support Edgewater Reads?

Tom:  Everyone can donate a book, borrow a book, and read a book out of the little lending libraries!

Karen:  We need more community leaders and ideas to help this initiative grow!  Anyone who is interested in helping lead this initiative can contact me directly at 773-784-5277 or Karen@48ward.org.  Also, we’d love help building the libraries.

Tom:  Interested folks can also come to the next “Edgewater Reads” meeting on April 21 at 6:30pm at the 48th ward office, 5533 N. Broadway.

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