This summer, since I have a lot of time on my hands, I decided to do something charitable.  It’s really no different than how I would ever spend a summer of underemployment, but it’s a warm and fuzzie way to legitimize all this reading for pleasure that I plan to do.

What it is is the Not About the Buildings summer read-a-thon.  Not About the Buildings is a non-profit/run by volunteers organization dedicated to promoting literacy in Providence.  It was founded in 2006 as a response to the completely lousy way Providence Public Library has been running its organization.  This is a problem that has been ongoing, and has received national attention (at least in library land).

Basically, PPL voted to close 2/3 of its branches claiming that it couldn’t afford to run them anymore though Library Director Dale Thompson makes an annual salary higher than those of Mayor David Cicilline or Governor Don Carcieri. These were branches in the poorest neighborhoods, very relied upon by the people who lived there. Thankfully, the branches still haven’t been closed (except one), and are now being taken over by a different non-profit group that actually wants to act like a library.

I live within 700 feet of one of the branches on the chopping block, and can say firsthand, that the building is heavily used.  After school and in the summer, it is teeming with kids who have nowhere else to go (sometimes they hang out in my landlady’s potting shed until the police come).  It still doesn’t have air-conditioning, so on days when it’s too hot, it has to shut down.

When I first moved to Providence, I was in there every day using the internet because my laptop cord was fried, my replacement had been stolen, and the library is the only place in Providence where you can go and use a computer with internet.  The nearest library branch to this one is over a mile away through a less-than-delightful neighborhood, or all the way downtown where walking is hazardous to even the most mindful pedestrian.

Since the branches are being taken care of, this summer read-a-thon benefits The Providence chapter of Books through Bars, which is a program that provides reading material to prisoners.  More than 2/3 of the more than 2 million state and federal prisoners in the U.S. are sub-literate, and more than half lack a high school education.  This means that upon re-entering society, these people will remain unemployable, and more likely to re-offend.

Anyway, this is something that is very important to me, and if you are interested, you can sponsor my reading here.  Or if you’d rather sponsor someone else– please do!  It makes me really uncomfortable to ask anyone for money, and I know times are tough (believe me), so I’m only going to ask once, and get back to my reading.

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