Williams Township couple honors cousin with mobile library gift to Good Shepherd
By Veronica Torrejón OF THE MORNING CALL
The Morning Call, Inc., © 02/06/10
The bright red library cart in the pediatric unit has wheels to move from place to place and books that will give wings to children in wheelchairs.
The idea behind the gift –– presented by Cathy and Scott Leiber of Williams Township Friday to the Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital Pediatric Unit –– is simple. The story behind the cart is anything but.
It's named after Judith F. Krug, a powerful voice in a national debate on censorship in public libraries. The director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom started in 1982 what has become a national movement, Banned Books Week.
Krug was also Scott Leiber's cousin. When she died in April, the Leibers wanted to honor her. Cousin Judy was more than the powerful woman at the forefront of a movement. She was the glue that bound the extended family, the one who insisted everyone attend weddings and not just funerals.
''She wanted the family together to celebrate joyous occasions too,'' said Scott Leiber.
Shortly after Krug's death, Cathy Leiber walked into Barnes & Noble at the Lehigh Valley Mall and asked how the family could honor her. The couple, both 59, ended up organizing a national book fair that took place in December and spanned 10 states.
With the proceeds, they started buying books for their first Judith's Reading Room — a library cart actually — which they already decided would go to Good Shepherd, where Cathy Leiber volunteers.
In the fall, Cathy Leiber brought her friend Holly Rodriguez of Hellertown to Good Shepherd's Pediatric Unit in Bethlehem so they could make a quilt with the children and their parents. While they were there, the women chatted with mothers in the unit about what their children like to read.
They learned that the mothers often spend long hours at the hospital with nothing to read. Cathy Leiber began making a list of books parents would enjoy as well as books for the teenagers in the unit. Some parents requested audio and picture books.
Cathy Leiber also wanted to gather a number of books that were significant to her cousin-in-law including numerous banned books such as ''The Grapes of Wrath'' by John Steinbeck.
Altogether there are 40 core books that the Leibers say will grace every collection they gather in the future. The number 40 was Krug's favorite, since she was born in 1940 and was one of four children.
On Friday, the Leibers presented the book cart — which swelled to more than 300 books — along with the quilt that Rodriguez had stitched together with squares designed by children in the unit. Rodriguez also brought other handmade quilts from her quilting circle.
''They'll keep people warm while they're curled up reading,'' said Cathy Leiber.
The notion of curling up with a book was certainly appealing to 16-year-old Dilan Jimenez of Perkiomenville who came to watch the library cart presentation and found his favorite book, ''The Da Vinci Code,'' by Dan Brown, in the collection.
''I think it's really nice that people care about others that way,'' he said.
Jimenez, who spent five weeks in the pediatric ward with a broken pelvis and torn ligament in his left knee after he was hit by a car, won't get to enjoy the collection. He was waiting to be released later in the day. But he knows the comfort that a book can bring to patients like him who are in wheelchairs during their recovery.
''Some people here, they can't walk, but [reading] takes them into a whole new world,'' he said.
That's exactly what the Leibers intended. The cart is the first of what they hope will be many more that will glide down hallways in nursing homes, veterans hospitals and rehab centers across the country.
The one criteria for locations is that they promote ''mobility through literature,'' said Scott Leiber. That includes places and programs that teach reading because the Leibers believe that ''to be illiterate is to be immobile.''
''A person can be free through literature,'' said Cathy Leiber. ''Books can free you, transport you, even if your bodies won't let you at the moment.''