CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) – A Haddon Township man’s mission to bring books to underserved neighborhoods just got a little easier. We met Tom Martin in October, chatting with people like a natural-born salesman.
“We’ve got mysteries, love stories…”
“Hey, my friend. Dean Koontz?”
Tom doesn’t actually sell anything. “Our slogan is, we take books where libraries don’t go and give them away,” Tom said.
Tom calls his non-profit the Camden County Pop-up Library. He sets up tables at places like Camden’s Walter Rand Transportation Center to give books away.
“Every Wednesday,” Tom told one visitor. “Take as many as you like.”
“There’s two libraries in Camden. They’re both far away from here,” Tom said. “We’re here because this is where the people are.”
Since January 2017, Tom has been in Camden and Philadelphia several times a week, giving away books as fast as people can donate to him.
“We’re a nice conduit. We can get the books into somebody else’s hands,” he said.
All those trips just got a little easier. Tom now has a brand-new Subaru Outback, emblazoned with the Camden County Pop-up Library logo.
The car was free. The Rotary Club of Camden, NJ kicked in $20,000 from an anonymous donor.
Cathy Gavin, the Rotary Club’s president-elect, said, “We met Tom and we heard about this, and it just was a perfect fit.”
Tom then made contact with Subaru’s Sandy Capell, manager of corporate responsibility and philanthropy.
“‘Will you donate the other half so I can get a new car?'” Tom asked. “Without batting an eyelash, she said yes.”
“I was so taken with the organic nature of his mission,” Sandy said. “We really want to be an active part of the community, and this is something that’s really needed.”
Not only does Tom now have extra space for books, he has an eye-catching billboard for every pop-up library, like his thrice-a-month pop-ups at Camden’s Cathedral Kitchen. “It’s not about me, but if my job’s easier, it just helps me bring more books to the people around Camden.”
Tom estimates he gives away about 250 books for adults and 300 books for teens and children every week. He can always use more, he said. “The books that we would like are the bestsellers – the James Pattersons, the Dean Koontz. Bibles, religious books, we always need children’s books.”
Tom said he would love to help other people start their own pop-up libraries. He will even provide books and bins and banners. You can reach him through his website, http://www.camdencountypopuplibrary.org