Book Wagon wheels books into Willard Straight

A conspicuous miniature wagon is parked in Willard Straight Hall’s browsing library. In the vintage Straight interior surrounded by sculptures, paintings and scale-model ships, the antique-looking wooden wagon might seem like a part of an exposition on rural life in 18th-century Britain. But the wagon is no exhibition piece; it’s the home of a student-founded, self-funded independent community book exchange.

The Book Wagon, unveiled April 26 on Facebook and Twitter, was inspired by independent lending libraries that have sprung up in Ithaca and elsewhere and its founders hope it will establish itself as a sustainable, accessible source of literary fiction and nonfiction.

“You need something whimsical to get attention,” said co-founder Zach Praiss ’17. He noted the Book Wagon’s collection will likely be small and is not intended to compete with libraries. He said it plans to entice readers by offering a personal experience without deadlines, rules and responsibilities and encourage the culture of reading for leisure.

Ross Brann of the Department of Near Eastern Studies, donated “Medieval Iberia” by Olivia R. Constable. “The Book Wagon captures the spirit and practice of intellectual sharing at the heart of any great university,” he said. Other Book Wagon number of enthusiasts helped repurpose an old wooden kitchen cart into a working wagon.

Most books come with stylized bookmarks that contain short notes by donors. Even though it might occasionally travel around campus, the Book Wagon will permanently be housed in the Straight’s browsing library and is open to all students, faculty, staff and members of the Ithaca community.

This article originally appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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