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Take It and Read

Dayton Metro Library

Innovation Summary

The Library receives many donated copies of books in excellent condition, and deselects materials throughout the year that no longer meet usage criteria. We began making these books available in community locations where people gather, especially where they may need to sit and wait.

Problem Statement

We know that many people pass by our libraries but never think about coming in. Some may have blocked cards, some may just think the library has nothing for them. Increasingly, we see immigrant populations who are unaware of the resources the library may offer for them. How can we reach out to these non-users in a friendly, stress-free way? How can we help create a reading community and encourage non-users to visit their public library?


We decided to make donated or deselected books available to people in places where they find themselves sitting and waiting. We thought that people would pick up a book to pass the time and think about the library in a more positive way. Each book has a sticker on the outside that says "Free Book! Take me with you and Read!" On the inside, there is another sticker that says "This book was donated by the Dayton Metro Library. You don't need to check it out, just take it with you and read! When you're done, share it with someone else, or return it to any Dayton Metro Library." This outreach began as part of our Urban Initiative project in 2008, as a means to reach out to residents in disadvantaged or at-risk communities. The successful response and interest from other branches led us to expand the project system wide in 2010, and participation has grown each year.


All branches and the Main Library now have Take It and Read community partners. In 2011, more than 60 locations hosted "Take It and Read" collections, including WIC centers, laundromats, doctors' offices, the local blood center, and a Hospice. More than 3000 books were made available, including, for the first time, children's books in Spanish. In one location, neighbors have started bringing their own used books to share with others. At a laundromat, the owner noted that mothers were reading the books to their children instead of watching television or just sitting quietly. One manager said that "every time I stop by to replenish at the laundromat there isn't a book left in sight!" The best news of all is that books are sometimes appearing at our branches, demonstrating that at least some readers are beginning to make the public library part of their lives.