September 9, 2020

Saturday is Free Book Day In Princeton and Lawrence

BOOKS FOR EVERYONE: On Free Book Day in Princeton and Lawrence this Saturday, September 12, readers can get rid of unwanted volumes and find some new ones. The event was first launched in Hopewell and Pennington as a way to strengthen community bonds during the pandemic.

By Anne Levin

One of the casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic is the annual Bryn Mawr-Wellesley Book Sale, a marathon used-book extravaganza usually held in the gym at Princeton Day School. For 18-year-old Pennington resident Anna Salvatore and her family, the cancellation of this year’s sale was especially frustrating.

“We were disappointed that we couldn’t go this year, because we look forward to it,” Salvatore said. “Then one day I saw that a neighbor who was moving was putting out his books, for free. And I thought it would be a good idea if everyone did that.”

The enterprising Hopewell Valley High School graduate, who will be a member of Princeton University’s class of 2025, got to work planning a Free Book Day in Pennington and Hopewell. The event was a success; so much so that Salvatore immediately thought of Princeton and Lawrence as the logical next step.

Free Book Day – Princeton and Lawrence is this Saturday, September 12, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Residents with books to give away can place them on their front lawn or curb, and all Mercer County residents are encouraged to stroll the streets and shop for titles.

“My thought was, how could it possibly fail in Princeton, where there are more nerds per capita than anywhere else?” said Salvatore. “So I have high hopes for this.”

Were it not for the pandemic and the cancellation of on-campus classes and activities, Salvatore would be in the beginning of her freshman year at Princeton. She has decided to take a gap year and work as an intern at Lawfare, a blog about current events.

Coordinating Free Book Day has been her most recent focus. Salvatore used Instagram and Facebook to publicize the recent Pennington/Hopewell event. Friends helped her distribute posters and get the word out. While people were encouraged to sign up ahead of time, most did not. That caused concern. But any worries Salvatore had about attendance were quickly dispelled.

“Dozens of households participated,” she said. “It was a really pleasant surprise to see how well it went. Families were walking around with backpacks on their backs, looking for kids’ books, among other subjects. We couldn’t have asked for a better turnout.”

As of last week, more people had signed up for Saturday’s event in Lawrence than in Princeton. “We’re hoping for more in Princeton, but people don’t have to sign up to participate, Salvatore said. “Everyone who hears about it is excited. There is no apathy when it comes to Free Book Day.”

Signing up also links participants to a site indicating which types of books will be available on different streets. Connect on the Facebook page.

Neighborhoods with low pedestrian traffic are encouraged to deposit books at a more centrally located friend’s house. If at the end of the day participants still have unwanted books, they can bring them to the Goodwill donation center at 15 Route 31, Pennington, or 18 Arctic Parkway, Ewing.

“Use a tarp, a table, the grass — whatever works for you,” Salvatore said. “Then, drive or walk around to see what neighbors have put out. It’s up to you whether, at the end of the day, you have more or less books in your house. Hopefully, this is a reminder that there are physical books out there if you want them.”