Book Ark sails into East Passyunk Crossing

A volunteer-run pop-up library helps strengthen the area’s reputation as a compassionate community.

Cat Bartoli cherishes calling East Passyunk Crossing her home, finding the neighborhood a perfect place to make diverse connections. She’s made many ties as the captain of the 700 block of Hoffman Street and has been making more since December 10th with the installation of a pop-up library called a Book Ark outside the BOK Building, 1901 S. Ninth St.

Bartoli has taken on the role as volunteer manager of the pop-up library (PUL) through the Book Ark Project of the Camden County Pop Up Library (CCPUL). The Garden State organization enlists builders and community members to construct and then oversee the maintenance of the PULs.

Book Ark visitors are encouraged to borrow or keep whatever books they choose. They do not need to feel pressure to replace their finds with ones from their collection, but donations are welcome. While placing selections in their temporary home last week Bartoli mentioned that she hopes people will take books to offer as gifts.

The pop-up library is located near another newer neighborhood amenity, BOK’s Community Fridge. Bartoli noted that the Book Ark dovetails nicely with the fridge to give residents much-needed tools in the collective fight to stay strong during troubling times. The books can serve as an antidote to the stresses brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. They “help to maintain our mental and emotional health,” Bartoli stated.

To fill the Ark, Bartoli received books from CCPUL. She also issued a call for books via the East Passyunk/Pennsport South/Whitman “Buy Nothing” group on Facebook seeking old or new works. The current selection abounds in children’s books. The initial outpouring was so great that Bartoli proudly proclaimed, “I now have a library in my basement.”

Materials written in Chinese, Spanish, and Vietnamese—the native languages of some nearby residents—are especially welcome.

“I’m amazed at how quickly this has come together since late summer, and it’s going to be fun to see what comes of the Ark’s time here in East Passyunk Crossing.”

Going forward, she’d like to involve children in the creation of the signage for Ark. She hopes it will  prove as popular as the Little Free Library setups, including one in Stephen Girard Park, 2101 W. Shunk St.

Bartoli believes the generosity of CCPUL and others who contribute to the library will help many walk away from the Ark with a great read and a deeper appreciation for community involvement. “I’m really thankful to CCPUL for harnessing a resource and spreading the message,” she concluded.

Contact Cat Bartoli via Facebook or email.