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Read UP bookmobile promotes literacy

From left, Ryan Lipinski, who builds the little libraries, and Brice Burge place a Little Free Library in Forsyth Township. (Photo courtesy of Read UP Bookmobile)

MARQUETTE — After finishing a good read, the book may occupy the nightstand for a few weeks before finding its home on a bookshelf crammed between dozens of others to collect dust. Why not donate it?

Melissa Derby is the founder of Read UP Bookmobile, a book exchange program that aims to promote literacy in the Upper Peninsula.

Unwanted books are donated to Derby who takes them home to be cleaned and checked for quality before they are redistributed back out to the community for free.

“People donate them to me for free with the intent that they get passed back out for free just to those who love to read and to keep books alive,” Derby said.

The idea for the bookmobile came when Derby received a load of books from Victory Lutheran Church in Gwinn that weren’t selling. Instead of throwing them away, her goal was to find them new homes.

While thrift stores are great for repurposing items, books often sit on shelves. By bringing the books to a different audience someone may enjoy them once again, she said.

“I have books that cover all ages,” Derby said. “I have hundreds of children’s books, probably thousands of adult books, all kinds of genres from cookbooks to Christian books. I try to have as many genres as I can to keep people interested. That’s the whole goal.”

She distributes her books at community events such as picnics, festivals, craft shows and also through Little Free Libraries.

With the help of her friend Ryan Lipinski, who builds the Little Free Libraries, she has put 11 of them throughout Forsyth Township.

The little libraries allow community members to take books home to enjoy without having to think about how they will return them, she said.

Derby hopes providing people with books will reduce the amount of time one spends in front of a screen.

“The reason I like books is in today’s day and technology, I feel that we’re actually getting dumber,” Derby said. “We rely too much on smartphones and tech. We don’t know how to take a written word.”

While e-books may be convenient, there are many more distractions one faces when reading online such as notifications from social media sites, which make it hard to sit down and fully enjoy a book, she said.

“There’s a certain feel to a book,” Derby said. “The smell of a book, it actually heightens all of your senses if you have a book, where a computer does not. You don’t have the smell of those pages or the feel of a book.”

Books are also a great conversation starter. It just takes one person asking a question — such as what was your favorite book as a child? — to spark a conversation or get someone interested in reading again, she added.

Derby is currently working toward turning Read UP into a nonprofit organization with Grow & Lead: Community and Youth Development. She hopes to spread literacy throughout the Upper Peninsula.

“My goal in the end is to span all counties,” Derby said. “I would like to hit all the counties in the U.P., maybe in a wild dream go across the bridge. But it’s in my name Read UP, so I would love to try and hit all the counties.”

Derby will be at Mission of Hope-Delta County on Saturday, at the annual Rock Labor Day Celebration on Aug. 31, Chocolay Area Festival — Harvey Daze on Sept. 14, and co-hosting the 2019 MQT Local Food Fest on Oct. 12.

For more information or to donate books, visit Read UP Bookmobile on Facebook or contact Melissa Derby at 906-204-9406 or email readup.bookmobile@gmail.com.

Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is tcarey@miningjournal.net.