Jersey City’s Free Book Exchange Wants to Trade Books With You

Jersey City’s Grave Robber Computer Repair Service boasts on its website, “We bring dead PCs back to life!” But along with resuscitating aging circuitry and software, the computer repair service owner, Anthony Olszewski, also finds a new life for discarded books.

Olszewski, who says he hates seeing “anything– particularly books– go to waste,” says the inspiration for Jersey City Free Books comes from a now-defunct free book service that used to operate out of a bagel store along Central Avenue. But after a fire closed the store and new management took over, the book swap went out with the old owner.

“Just walking around the Heights, I’ve often found boxes of books on the curb for recycling,” Olszewski says.

“When I worked at City Hall a dozen years ago, I once found a copy of Prehistoric European Art — I think that it had a $35 tag — on top of a pile of newspapers. A passerby told me that I should be ashamed of myself for rooting in the garbage,” he recalls. “I replied that whoever threw out the book should be ashamed.”

Although it’s a free book service open for all, Olszewski encourages etiquette– when asked “How many can I take?” he responds, “How many can you read at a time?” And once when someone tried to take out a pile of books that towered above his head, saying he “wanted to start a library,” he was asked to put the books back.

“I basically use ‘from each according to ability, to each according to need’ as the guideline,” says Olszewski. “The purpose of the shop is to make books available to everyone. I do hope that the people taking books share that idea.”

Jersey City Free Books, located at 297 Griffith Street, is open on Saturdays from 10am-4pm, but stays open later during the winter.

Matt Hunger

is a former staff writer for the Jersey City Independent.