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Community Bookshelves

Because Learning Happens Everywhere

Book Harvest maintains bookshelves filled with free children’s books throughout the community; children are invited to choose an unlimited number of books from these shelves to take home and keep forever.

What are Community Bookshelves?

Since its origins in 2011, Book Harvest has forged partnerships with businesses and organizations to accomplish an audacious goal: to remove ALL obstacles to literacy for children in our midst, beginning in the ordinary and informal settings that characterize our neighborhoods and starting with families as soon as their children are born. 


Community bookshelves are possible thanks to a collaborative network of volunteers and community organizations that ensures all children have easy access to their very own age-appropriate, culturally diverse books so they can build their own home libraries.

From Mary (baby at Duke).jpg

Why Community Bookshelves Matter

• Access to books and educational material is the single biggest barrier to literacy development in the United States and beyond. If we can solve the problem of access, we will be well on the road to realizing educational parity – a goal which has eluded this country for generations. [1]

• Learning can happen everywhere when communities transform spaces into informal learning spaces with access to free books and education resources — in shops, health clinics, even in laundromats. [2]

•The role of neighborhoods and communities to address disparities in learning opportunities is central to providing every child with the resources, tools, and skills to learn and flourish. [3]

I took my youngest to Duke today for his long awaited covid shot. When we walked upstairs to the waiting room he immediately found the new Book Harvest shelf and his eyes lit up. What a treat for all! He squealed in delight. He happily read as we waited and was thrilled that he got to take the book back with him for the shot and then home (what could get better than that?!?). How nice it was to not have a power struggle about returning the book. Thank you all for the continued efforts you put out into the community to make Durham a better place.

Mary Rand Howard, Parent

How Community Bookshelves Work

Book Harvest provides the bookshelf and culturally-inclusive books. Partner organizations agree to do the following:

  • Keep the shelf neat, tidy, and fully-stocked with books and ensuring visibility of Book Harvest signage.

  • Ensure that every book provided by Book Harvest is taken home by children and families and not sold, traded, bartered, used for fundraising, or given to staff or other agencies.

  • Allow children and families to select their own books without any requirement to pay for them or return them.

  • Maintain regular contact with Book Harvest staff and notify them of any changes in our organization's mission, location, or population served.

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You can complete the form to find out how to partner with Book Harvest and provide books for your specific community. Please note that partner requests can take 1-2 weeks to process, and submitting the form does not guarantee that we will be able to approve the request.

If you have questions, please contact Associate Director of Community Engagement, Caitlyn Bergman at

Find a Bookshelf Location

Sort by category to see only our Community Bookshelf locations.

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