Drop in, grab a book, stick around: Rockledge reading room's doors open to one and all – Florida Today

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Rockledge has a secret, and the folks in charge are hoping it’s one that no one keeps.
“We’re trying to get the word out,” said Amy Tidd, volunteer coordinator for the Georgia Phillips Reading and Book Lending Room. “It’s one of the best-kept secrets in Brevard.”
The reading room at 123 Barton Boulevard isn’t a library. Books aren’t checked out and returned. There are no fines. Instead of paid librarians, it’s staffed by volunteers.
If you take a book from the reading room, you can keep it for as long as you’d like — or forever — without fear of fines or late fees.
“This is worry-free reading, which is really fun,” Tidd said.
Originally opened in 2013, the reading room closed for more than a year during the pandemic. It reopened this summer.
Tidd said she got involved in 2002 with a group working to bring a library to Rockledge. The group was led by the late Georgia Phillips, who then was a city councilwoman.
Because of the city’s close proximity to the Suntree-Viera Public Library and the Catherine Schweinsberg Rood Central Library in Cocoa, a county-operated library wasn’t an option.
Ten years later, when a new police department off Jack Oates Boulevard opened, the city of Rockledge let Phillips and her band of volunteers turn the former police records room into a reading room.       
“Georgia came up with the idea of a reading room so we could have some kind of library in Rockledge,” Tidd said.
In addition to books, the reading room features music and videos. There are computer terminals and a printer, all free and available to anyone, whether they live in Rockledge or not.
The shelves hold fiction, non-fiction, cookbooks, biographies and large-print books. There’s a cozy purple chair and a table with a partially completed, 1,500-piece jigsaw puzzle on it.
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“We always have a puzzle going,” Tidd said. “One couple comes in, he gets books and she does five pieces on the puzzle.”
The city supplies the space at no cost, and bought T-shirts for the volunteers to wear, said Dr. Brenda Fettrow, Rockledge city manager. Everything else is handled using donations and volunteers.
Have a favorite author? Head to the reading room, Tidd said. Chances are good you’ll find something by that writer on the shelves. She recently posed a question on Facebook: “Who can guess how many books we have written by James Patterson?”
The responses: 5? 10? 17?
“Ok, I will tell. We have 71 books written by James Patterson. If someone you know likes him, have them stop by,” Tidd wrote.
While donations are welcome, and the community has been generous with its books, but Tidd said right now, they need some of those books to circulate out to readers before more come in. If you’ve got a trip planned, she suggests picking up a few books to take along. Then leave them at your destination for someone else to enjoy.
Rockledge City Councilman Duane Daski sees the reading room as a great asset for the community, and he wishes more people knew about it.
After the pandemic shutdown, he helped prepare it for re-opening.
It’s a great place to bring children, Daski said. Tidd agreed. They’ve got lots of children’s books and resources for home-schoolers.
And it’s a quiet good place to sit for a while to read or study.
“We certainly love having the reading room in the city,” Fettrow said. “It’s been there for many, many years, and it’s certainly an asset to the city. And we certainly appreciate the volunteers who work the reading room.”
Right now, the reading room is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Volunteers are always needed to work weekly three-hour shifts. Those who can’t commit to working every week can volunteer to fill in on occasional shifts. 
A volunteer application is required and can be picked up at City Hall. Call 321-221-7540 for more information. Or to talk with Tidd, call 321-321-631-3916.
“I think it’s a hidden gem,” Daski said. “I think it’s one that needs to be unhidden.”
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