A couple of weeks ago I had the experience to spend Shabbos with a Chassidishe Rav and his family in Boro Park. It was absolutely wonderful and I look forward to going back again. One thing that stuck out for me was that the Rebbetzin runs a library out of her home. It's not a huge, professional library but it's a great selection of some older classics and more recent publications organized neatly on around five bookshelves in an upstairs room. The Rebbetzin explained that she does this as a service for the community, allowing them to come and borrow books whenever they want. An interesting observation is that right across the street from the home is a big Brooklyn public library, but of course most people in the Chassidishe Boro Park community do not utilize this library due to their content of secular books. I am sure that many of the families on the Rebbetzin's street appreciate her smaller library too the much bigger library that they feel uncomfortable using.
I was reflecting on this small library and the chessed it provides recently and it occurred to me how much there is a need for many more such libraries in our communities wherever they may be. Unfortunately there are not really any big professional libraries that are dedicated to loaning out books appropriate for the frum world. Sometimes you do come across a couple such libraries or gemachs but they can be scarce, leaving many without access to good reading material. I am fortunate in that when I was in high school we had a fantastic library that received good funding and was able to provide us with hundreds of books, including all the new releases and other books and seforim that appealed to myself and others. Where I am now also has a very decent library but it is lacking in certain areas as well as not being available to the non-student body. In my temporary apartment I keep around 30 books that I keep on a shelf and I am try to let others know that they are able to borrow them. Back at home between every member of my family we must have a couple hundred frum books, definitely a good size library. This shouldn't be a surprise, as Jews are known for their large collections of books and I think that many of us have the resources to create miniature "libraries" as the Rebbetzin that I stayed with created.
All if takes is to let people know that you have books available to borrow, write your name and phone number on the inside cover, and keep track of who has what. This is such a great chessed on many levels. First off, books are a wonderful source of good, healthy entertainment. Your loaning out books helps contribute a good education to young children or a restful afternoon to an overworked parent or student. Depending on the type of book you loan out you could also be assisting someone in their Torah learning. Any way you look at it, it's all good. So give it some thought and see if you too can help your friends or community by creating your own Jewish library.