Tucked away in a non-descript industrial building amongs the trendy bars and restaurants near the Morgan Avenue L train stop, a literary oasis thrives.
Mellow Pages Library is a reading room and lending library with a collection of around 5,000 titles, including one of the best selections of limited-print fiction and poetry in the city, which readers can enjoy for free.
The library was born in a smaller room in the same building last February when Jacob Perkins, 27, who’d been using it as an art studio, decided to convert it into a public space for reading.
Perkins and a former classmate from the University of Washington, Matt Nelson, also 27, filled it with around 700 books, including donations from their own collections and those of their friends.
“Probably anywhere in New York you can find a pocket of people who all love books, or at least a bar where people come to talk about books. It just so happened that Bushwick was becoming a book place and we did what we could to help it out,” said Nelson, who also works at the Center for Fiction.
At its inception, readers could become members of the lending library by donating books. Now that the library has built up a sizeable collection, membership is $5 monthly. There are about 50 paying subscribers currently, on top of another 100 subscribers who joined before the payment system launched this spring.
While books of poetry, fiction, philosophy, political theory and graphic novels are shelved according to genre, the organization system has yet to be perfected, which leaves plenty of room for serendipitous discoveries.
“I can tell you whether we have a book in or not, but I can’t tell you where it is,” said Aiden Arata, 24, who volunteers at the library (and gives tarot card readings upon request) on Fridays. “So I tell members, ‘Yeah, we have that book. Good luck! Go find it.'”
Brooklyn is, arguably, the literary capital of the city, and Bushwick is among its most vibrant focal points. In the last few years, nearby bookstores including Human Relations on Flushing Avenue, and Molasses Books on Hart Street, have set up shop, making the neighborhood an increasingly popular destination for bibliophiles and writers starting new presses and publications.
In addition to its function as a library, Mellow Pages is among several spots in the area that serves as a space for readings, book launches and other literary festivities.
“There’s a lot going on in Bushwick right now that wasn’t going on when we first started ?and I know that because a lot of new zines, websites and journals have had events here to get the word out,” Perkins, who also works at the Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co., said.
While those events draw crowds (between 60 and 70 people can squeeze into the room), the space tends to be quiet during the day. For those who stop by regularly, Mellow Pages also serves an important social function, as a place to read and relax with friends, away from the hustle of the city.
“I get to sit around and read and talk about books with people. It’s kind of a dream,” Arata said.