One for the books

A Coconut Creek couple creates free libraries at local businesses

Jose and Julieta Rubiralta share a desire to make people happy when they least expect it. They don’t think twice about dropping a few dollars at a bus stop or leaving a note with a cheery saying on someone’s car windshield. “Doing these random acts of kindness makes us happy,” Jose says.

They also have another passion: a love of books. “When we moved from Mexico and then to Florida from Kentucky, we had to give away a lot of books,” he adds.

A year ago, they started a website, fun2giveback.com, to donate to charitable causes, part of their penchant for wanting to help others. They started selling assorted things—baby items, bottle openers, T-shirts—with 50 percent of the proceeds earmarked for four charitable organizations.

As a natural outgrowth of the donation website, the couple then launched fun2givebooks.com with a specific premise in mind. What if the book you were reading had another story? That it had traveled?

Jose and Julieta created a stamp-and-share program, where readers could print out a bookmark from the website and include it in a book. The bookmark says “I just finished this book, and I want you to have it. Enjoy!” There are spaces to write the date and the city, and a place for any additional comments. “We have family in Mexico, and when we go, we leave books all over. We felt that it created this sense of community,” Jose says.

They’ve taken their book concept a step further. In a partnership with the city of Coconut Creek, the couple will place pre-filled boxes of books inside local businesses. The boxes will have the stamps to be filled out for sharing.

“We wanted to do something with the city because it is such a wonderful community here. So we came up with the free library,” he says.

He approached newspapers in South Florida to see if they would be willing donate some of their used outdoor newspaper receptacles, but he didn’t have any luck. So, he searched eBay and found some for sale in Pennsylvania. He and his wife have spruced up the metal boxes and the city designed and produced special logos for kiosks.

“The stores will have something that dresses up their place,” Jose says.

While the idea is a book swap, Jose says the kiosks are to be enjoyed. “The idea of keeping the boxes full is to bring a book if you take a book, but if that doesn’t happen, we’ll make sure they are stocked,” he says.

The boxes will contain all kinds of books from children’s books to adult novels, but the rule is to “keep it clean. We want this to be accessible to everyone.” The Rubiraltas hope others will respect the idea of the book share and have fun. The couple will make rounds, however, checking on the boxes and restocking. They’ll make sure the boxes are tidy—“no garbage inside”—and that the books are suitable for everyone.

They also want to make sure they have enough books to keep the locations filled, so they welcome donations. “If you’re doing spring cleaning and you want to donate to this activity, we’ll pick them up and distribute them to the boxes.”

Jose owns a Kindle and Julieta has a Nook, but neither has much time to read these days, since their daughter was born in September.

“We use the electronic devices when we travel, but there’s nothing like the feeling of a book—the smell of a book—it’s a bit nostalgic,” he says. “We’re hoping the initiative encourages people to read. They’ll be having a coffee or waiting for a bagel and see the book kiosk and think, ‘I’ve heard of this author, the book is free, let me take it.’”

And he’s hoping that the books will travel everywhere. “Some of the businesses will have visitors that aren’t local,” he says. “They’ll pick up a book, stamp it and comment and say, ‘I picked up this book in Coconut Creek, Florida, and I read it in Miami, and I’m leaving it in Washington, D.C.’ The stamp is its passport. We’ve created this feeling that you’re reading a book that has traveled with someone and it has that person’s story in it.” 

Reading Recommendations

The people behind fun2givebooks.com share their favorite books.
Jose’s Top 5

In Search of Excellence by Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr.

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Julieta’s Top 5

Lust for Life by Irving Stone

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Blindness by Jose Saramago

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Find the Books

Coconut Creek Recreation Center, 4455 Sol Press Blvd.

Coconut Creek Community Center, 1100 Lyons Road

Pop Gourmet, 6111 Lyons Road

Your Art Time, El Dorado Shopping Center, 5905 Lyons Road

Big Bite Bagel & Deli, 5369 Lyons Road

Robbie E. Custom Cakes, 4570 Lyons Road

Mobile Culinary Kitchens (MCK), 1375 Lyons Road

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