Tara Lemmon perused rows of paperback books nestled on an electric-blue cart at Crab Meadow Beach this week, ultimately choosing a story about star-crossed lovers.
The reading materials offered at Crab Meadow and other beaches in the Town of Huntington are supplied by the Northport-East Northport Public Library’s Beach Bag Book program. The initiative, in its sixth year, still generates an enthusiastic response and has been copied elsewhere on Long Island, library officials said.
“I noticed it [the cart] a couple of years ago,” said Lemmon, 33, of Huntington. “I’ve dropped off a lot of books, but if I see one that’s interesting, I grab it, too.”
The program started as a single cart of books at Crab Meadow Beach in 2012 and expanded to Asharoken and Hobart beaches in 2015. Hundreds of books circulate through the program each beach season, officials said.
“It’s huge,” said district librarian Denise Campbell, who visits the three beaches weekly to add books to the carts. “It seems to be very popular whenever I go to refill.”
The carts, parked near the beaches’ lifeguard shacks from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, offer books ranging from adult suspense and romance novels to children’s books. On Crab Meadow’s cart Monday, Greg Iles’ “24 Hours” mystery novel leaned against Nicholas Sparks’ “Dear John.”
The goal is to amass a collection of best-sellers and “easy reads that will be appealing for people at the beach,” Campbell said. She noted that the program follows a “free little libraries philosophy,” where readers are encouraged to both take and share books.
Alyson Baker of Huntington lounged on a towel at Crab Meadow with Daniel Tammet’s “Born on a Blue Day,” saying she’d just noticed Crab Meadow’s cart for the first time earlier that day.
“They do it [book-sharing] at a lot of places in the city, so I’m kind of excited that they brought it here,” said Baker, 21.
The success of the Northport train station’s book-sharing program, started by the Northport-East Northport library in 1989, sparked the introduction of the library’s beach carts, Campbell said. The program has nearly doubled since 2014, with almost 1,000 books in circulation last summer, she added.
“We’ve been getting comments from patrons that it’s so convenient to have resources brought to them at the beach,” said James Olney, the library’s director. “We’ve been able to use very generous items that were donated by residents.”
The initiative is so popular that it’s been copied. Carol Albano, Harborfields Public Library’s director, was at Crab Meadow two years ago when she came across the cart.
“I said, ‘What’s this cart of books here?’ ” Albano recalled. She called the Northport library district soon after to learn more about the program.
Harborfields’ two carts at Centerport and Fleets Cove beaches returned for a second year last Friday. Cold Spring Harbor Library director Roger Podell said that library is also looking to start a book-sharing program in its district’s beaches or parks in late summer or early fall.
Even with today’s digital reading platforms, Albano said there’s still something about a good paperback that can’t be topped.
“People still love to have the book in their hands — the touch and smell of the pages,” she said.
Beach Bag Books
- Started by Northport-East Northport Public Library in 2012
- Carts are located at Crab Meadow, Asharoken and Hobart beaches
- Program runs from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day
- Nearly 1,000 books circulated last summer