A Neighborhood Bookshelf

A few weeks ago, this appeared outside Cafe Buunni, a great coffee shop in Washington Heights (my neighborhood).

Nomat Book Club: A bookcase where people can take and leave books, in Washington Heights

The idea is incredibly simple, but brilliant: It’s a bookcase for the whole neighborhood.В People can take or leave books as they please.

I love everything about that bookcase.

It fosters a sense of community—I like the idea of neighbors sharing books. It’s a money-saver—I’m all about supporting authors, but it’s a treat to get books for free!В But perhapsВ the thing I love most about the bookcase is that it gives me a place to pass along books I no longer want or can fit in my apartment.

I think it’s fair to say that most New Yorkers are short on space—apartments in the city are generally small, even in pre-war buildings in more affordable neighborhoods, like my own. As a result, we’re always purging in an effort to maximize our spaces.

I’m a strong believer inВ the sharing economy, and really appreciate having places to donate or drop off items so they’re not going to waste. My building, for example, has a clothing and textile bin that benefits a local charity. I can’t count the number of times I’ve dropped in clothing or shoes. And that’s why I welcome that communal bookcase to my ‘hood. It’s a great addition, and it’s amazing more neighborhoods don’t have something similar.

Is there anything in your building or area that encourages sharing among neighbors? I’m curious and would love to know.


  1. Hi Heather! This is such a brilliant idea. I’m an avid reader as well and I wish someone would set up a bookcase like that in my neighbourhood. The City would probably come and remove it the same day though. We’ve got a donation bin at the back of our building for gently used clothes, shoes, purses, linen, etc. I try and clean out my closet every few months and donate clothes I no longer wear. People in my building tend to leave books, DVDs and even pots and pans in the laundry room in case anyone else wants them. Can’t think of anything else.

    1. That’s awesome, Donna! I love hearing how neighbors share among each other and donate their stuff. So good for the community and the environment!

  2. They have something like this at one of the train stations I often go to. The thing is, I notice the books just disappear and there won’t be any books for a little while then a bunch of new ones are back. I wonder if people ever return the books.

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