Bump in road for Book Bike ends smoothly

By HermineBloom

The usually giddy enthusiasm Gabriel Levinson exhibits for all things literary was seemingly squashed when a Chicago Park District official asked Levinson, the man behind the Book Bike, to relocate for the first time since the project’s inception.

More specifically, a bewildered Levinson was forced to peddle to the outskirts of Wicker Park on July 3 as a result of giving books away for free without a permit or belonging to a formal organization. The one-man project, as previously reported in The Chronicle on May 3, is based on the notion that giving away books for free in a public park will inspire people to read.

Just mere days later, however, those working at the Chicago Public Library, after reading the Chicagoist’s report of this particular incident, contacted Levinson and the Chicago Park District and proposed an official partnership with the Book Bike. A badge will simply represent the Chicago Public Library’s blessing, which was described by both Levinson and the Chicago Public Library’s Director of Marketing and Press Ruth Lednicer as neither a financial agreement nor in any way intrusive.

“When I first spoke with [the Chicago Public Library] I was blown away to get that call,” Levinson said. “That’s the Chicago Public Library. Being a book lover, those guys are celebrities. But the fear of, ‘Well OK what are we talking about here…what happens next’ set in. But the next time I spoke with the Chicago Public Library all of those fears melted away.”

Rest assured the Book Bike won’t change a bit regardless of its newfound official association with a bigger entity, according to Levinson.

Instead, the debacle ended in a perfectly viable solution within a day of when it was introduced. This was mainly due to the willingness of Chicago’s agencies to communicate with one another—something that Lednicer admitted happens often in Chicago but hardly makes news.

“Chicago departments are great in that sense because we all do know each other and it’s not too hard to pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, just so you understand, he’s with us…,’” Lednicer said.

Levinson has always had a relationship with the library, especially since he’s accustomed to handing out copies of the book and resource guides for the library’s One Book, One Chicago program.

The resolution seems natural in that Levinson and the Chicago Public Library complement each other.

“With my tricycle I can go to places in the city that the library can’t reach because of my brick and mortar establishment,” Levinson said of their shared goal of promoting literacy.

After numerous attempts to contact the Chicago Park District, calls were not returned to The Chronicle by press time.

“The Chicago Park District champions literacy and works with partners such as the Chicago Public Library to encourage reading. With thousands of children and families enjoying the parks each day, the Chicago Park District has the responsibility to ensure the safety and enjoyment of its patrons,” said a Chicago Park District representative in a press statement released on July 7.