Last summer, Lila Gibson was at Edgewater Beach with her mother when she came across a pleasant surprise: a miniature library right on the shore of Lake Erie.
“I saw it and said, ‘Hey, it’s a library at the beach!’” she remembers. “Wow.”
Lila, who was ten at the time, immediately set about exploring this latest addition to Cleveland Public Library’s offerings. At the Edgewater BookBox, she found not only books, DVDs, and other library materials, but crafts and special activities, too. On that first day she visited, for example, she rolled milkweed seeds into clay balls to make seed bombs to attract monarch butterflies.
Lila loved the concept of a miniature library on the beach so much that she sent a letter and drawing to Felton Thomas, Jr., the Executive Director of Cleveland Public Library.
“The librarians there were super nice and helpful,” she wrote. “I love to read and swim so the BookBox is perfect for me!”
Books on the Beach
The Edgewater BookBox, which opened in 2018, is a decommissioned shipping container located in Edgewater Park and staffed by Library employees on weekends and during the Cleveland Metroparks’ Edgewater Live concert series. In its inaugural season, the BookBox served more than 3,000 patrons, and its popularity continued to grow in 2019.
Patrons may visit the Edgewater BookBox to check out or return books, DVDs, CDs, and audio books; sign up for a library card; learn how to use the Library’s digital resources; explore the Mobile MakerSpace (availability varies); access the Seed Library offered in partnership with the Cleveland Seed Bank; and enjoy other occasional programming, as well. In the BookBox’s first summer, for example, Cleveland State University’s Department of Physics presented family-friendly physics demonstrations on the beach.
The Edgewater BookBox is supported by a Library Services and Technology Act grant through the State Library of Ohio, as well as the Cleveland Metroparks, which provides its space at Edgewater Park. This is the Library’s second BookBox location; on the east side, the BookBox at Wade Oval Wednesday has reached thousands of families.
“We’re always looking for new and creative ways to serve the community, and the Edgewater BookBox allows us to expand our educational outreach and share Library resources in a lively, accessible public space,” said Felton Thomas, Jr., Executive Director and CEO of Cleveland Public Library. “Thanks to this partnership with the Cleveland Metroparks, and to our staff for keeping the BookBox running smoothly, patrons like Lila are able to enjoy some true ‘beach reading’ during the summer.”
Lila, now eleven, is a fan not only of the Edgewater BookBox, but libraries in general. She loves Main Library’s murals and Indoor Reading Garden, and she also patronizes various other library systems in the area. No matter which library she’s visiting, she relishes the atmosphere she finds there.
“I like how it’s peaceful and quiet [in a library],” she says. She recommends the Edgewater BookBox to others, especially to her friends who love both reading and swimming. “It’s on the beach, with a bunch of books of all genres,” she explains. “It’s very peaceful and relaxing.”
This appreciation for books and libraries seems to run in the family: Lila’s mother, Michelle Gibson, works at a middle school library, and she’s thrilled that Lila and her three other children are avid readers.
“Reading is a way to investigate different ideas and points of view,” Michelle says. “It allows you to be creative and use your imagination.”
When Lila’s not immersed in a book (she especially loves fantasy, graphic novels, or historical fiction), she likes to go swimming and kayaking. She also enjoys drawing and design, and she’s interested in becoming an interior designer when she grows up. Or who knows—she may even consider being a librarian.
“Helping someone find books and opening the world for them sounds very fun and very fulfilling,” she says.
For now, Lila has the magic of books available to her through her local libraries—including one very special miniature library on the beach.
The Edgewater BookBox is located on an ADA-accessible boardwalk north of the Edgewater Boat House in Edgewater Park.