Port’s public library brings books to LIRR commuters

Port’s public library brings books to LIRR commuters
The Port Washington Public Library's Ride & Read program has returned to the Port Washington train station for the summer. Commuters can borrow books at the station with no library card required. (Photo courtesy of Jean Bennett)

After racing to catch the 7:19 a.m. Long Island Rail Road train out of Port Washington, you get settled into your seat and attempt to find something to occupy your 40-minute commute to Grand Central. But maybe social media has become boring and it’s too early to read up on the news.

What do you do instead?

The Port Washington Public Library is addressing the all-too-often boredom of an early morning commute by offering free books for commuters to grab while waiting for their train at the Port Washington station through its Ride & Read program.

“People are running to the train so we try to make it just a grab-and-go service. There’s no stress, you don’t need a card,” Jean Bennett, Ride & Read manager and reference librarian for the Port Washington Public Library, said. “You can just grab a book and be on your merry way. We are also there to remind people of all the great things the library has to offer.”

From 7-9 a.m. on Wednesday mornings every summer, from July 12 through Sept. 6, Bennett and her colleagues sit at the Port Washington LIRR train station with a book cart filled with a diverse selection of popular paperbacks and large-type books any commuter can borrow for their trip.

No library card is required to take a book through the Ride & Read program. Book checkouts are based on the honor system and can be returned at the station on Wednesday mornings or any time at the library.

The Ride & Read program was started in 2000 when the library was closed due to renovations. Bennett said the library was looking for a central location in town where the library could continue providing services despite its closure, which they found at the Port Washington train station.

The program was established through a cooperative effort between the Port Washington Public Library, Long Island Rail Road and Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Bennett said the program is one of the library’s most successful outreach initiatives.

“They love to see us there, we love to be there and it’s all good,” Bennett said.

The grab-and-go library book program has been provided every summer, with a brief break in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.

Now after 23 years of the program being offered, Bennett said the library doesn’t loan out as many books as it used to at the train station and has now adapted the program to promote the library’s other services. This includes offering information on how e-books and audiobooks can be downloaded through the library, applications for library cards, book requests and answering miscellaneous library questions.

“Not only now do we give out books but we also help people access our electronic sources as well,” Bennett said.

Bennett said this is an important program for the library because every day she encounters someone at the train station who has never had the time or opportunity to make it to the library.

She said the community response to the Ride & Read program has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Everyone says what a great service it is,” Bennett said. “They just say that they are so happy that we’re there.”

The program is supported by the Friends of the Library.

The Port Washington Public Library also provides a lending library of children’s, teen and adult books at the Manorhaven pool every summer. The book cart is located in the pool’s lobby. Bennett said the library hopes that residents will “Take a Book & Share a Book” with others.

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