The need to Read
The Free Books Project Origin Story
Our story begins October 2018 outside of the Camden, NJ methadone clinic. Tom Martin, to become our Founder and Executive Director, arrived with only a folding table and some books donated by friends in the trunk of his car.
When he saw how quickly members of the community took home that entire first load of books, Tom knew he had tapped into an unmet need to read. From this small but auspicious start, two additional locations for these Pop Up Libraries (PULs) were chosen, and The Free Books Project was born.
Tom and our wonderful team of volunteers show up to these locations at the same time every week to hand out an assortment of free books curated specifically for that neighborhood’s interests. The Free Books Project is proud to give the people of Camden, NJ literacy continuity and act as a life-line of sorts for books and belonging.
However, there was only so much good Tom felt could be done in just six hours a week at these PULs.
Inspiration for how to do more struck in an unlikely place—as it often does—when Tom saw an abandoned newspaper box. What if we could leave books around the neighborhood so people could browse whenever they pleased? This idea was the spark for an additional program: The Book Ark Project. With the help of builder/designer Dr. John Martin (no relation), our Book Arks were brought to life.
The first Book Ark was placed at TI’s Next Level Barber Shop on Haddon Avenue in Parkside. Since then, local artists and creators have teamed up to install over 230 unique Book Arks throughout South Jersey, managed and regularly restocked by our volunteer Book Ark Stewards.
In addition to PULs and Book Arks, we are proud to have opened The Free Books Place at the Quaker Meeting House in Camden. It is open every Saturday from 9 am – 2 pm.
Our mission is strong, and we’re just getting started. The Free Books Project is proof that when good people see something that needs to be done, they can come together and make it happen. We can’t wait to see the exciting ways we continue to grow together.
The faces of altruism
Meet our amazing board members.
Our fearless leader and the one who started it all, Tom is the original heart and head of The Free Books Project.
A self-described “agent of change,” Amir uses his innovative skillset and expansive network to help the Free Books Project achieve our goals.
Thinker. Tinker. Mover and shaker. Goal post creator and relocator. Dreamer. Strategist. Trevor is The Free Books Project’s most poetic Activist.
Brazilian by birth, Claudia has dedicated much of her career to underserved communities by joining projects that help improve quality of life and increase opportunity.
Environmental lawyer turned literary activist, Julie has been instrumental in our mission of spreading literacy and joy by spearheading community outreach.
LaCisha (Flosserella) Laws
A natural born caregiver, LaCisha takes great pride in serving her community through her job and the many organizations she supports.
Help Us Achieve Our Mission
“As we continue our work and strive to expand our efforts, every donation makes a difference, regardless of its size. Your generosity allows us to spread literacy by introducing our programs (such as our PULs, Book Arks, and The Free Books Place) to and creating partnership opportunities with more cities—more readers.”
– Tom Martin, Executive Director
Checks made out to The Free Books Library can be mailed to P.O. Box 501, Collingswood, NJ 08108