The stay-at-home order has been the perfect excuse to get some reading done — or, like one local woman did, just go ahead and open a library. Samantha “Sunny” Sundquist has been operating a lending library, Sunny’s Shared Spines, out of her Logan Square home amid the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Sundquist opened “Sunny’s Shared Spines” when the local university where she works as a librarian integrated with another school and ultimately lost its library. Since then, she has saved nearly 400 books from possibly getting thrown away. Sunny’s Shared Spines serves the Logan Square and Humboldt Park neighborhoods.
Sunny’s proprietor said she always joked about opening a library because of all the books she has at home.
“It was almost like the perfect storm. I had all the time in the world working from home,” she said. “I missed people after the first couple of weeks. I just didn’t feel very purposeful. I thought, well, I can’t work in a library. So why can’t I make a library that I can work in?”
Within a week of launching her in-home library in mid-May, Sundquist created a no-contact way for people to check out a book from her collection.
Visitors can browse Sundquist’s collection through her website. First-time guests can create an account, which gives them the pickup location as well as a code to access the pickup box. (To create your account, first choose any book and then click on the “First-Time Users Click Here” button.)
After properly sanitizing the books, Sundquist stores them in a metal box where they can be picked up.
Sundquist said that she wants her library to offer a neighborhood resource, and she really emphasizes the importance of community. On her website, she asks that guests provide their approximate cross-street address, to ensure that patrons are within the “community service area.”
“I’d like to focus more on my community to give them more of what they need,” Sundquist said. “I really want to become more of a community resource center where people can interact differently than how they interact in a [traditional] library.”
Neighbor Amanda Stilwell signed up as the first patron of Sunny’s Shared Spines after hearing about the library in the Humboldt Park Community Group on Facebook. Stilwell said Sundquist’s library feels more curated than a typical library.
“I was really excited to see something like [this] in the neighborhood,” Stilwell said. “We have a mini-‘take-one-leave-one’ library on our street, but that’s a different experience entirely. Sunny wraps all her books and often includes little gifts when you pick up.”
Neighbor Leigh Kelsey has also visited Sunny’s Shared Spines multiple times. This local home library provided a convenient way for her to get a book recommendation and check the title out in the same place, she said.
“Until there’s a vaccine [for the coronavirus], I will remain wary of using the Chicago Public Library,” Kelsey said. “I believe that neighbors are great resources for one another. However long Sunny’s Shared Spines is around, I will use it, even after COVID-19 passes.”
Sundquist said she hopes to grow Sunny’s Shared Spines in the future. Now, she is applying for a grant through the Austin Foundation. She is also accepting book donations to help add to her ever-expanding collection. Books can be donated by emailing the library at Sunnys.Shared.Spines@gmail.com and requesting a drop-off time.
“I’d really love to have more books that are of the moment and books that will be helpful for people in the future,” she said. “This is a very new type of library, and I’m excited to see where it goes.”
Featured photo: Erin Dickson