Sutton Public Library

Sutton Public Library

WASILLA — The Bright Lights Book Project is holding a project reading Thursday, July 22 at the Sutton Public Library giving an overview of the local program dedicated to building local literacy by getting as many books into readers’ hands as possible with titles saved from the shredder.

“We’ll take about a brief history of this and talk about some of the things we will be doing in the future,” Bright Lights Book Project Outreach coordinator Alys Culhane said.

Local children worked with volunteers to build numerous “Little Libraries” for the Sutton Community. Culhane said that she brought her horse and dog to keep the teens company as they panted boxes outfitted into public used book stations.

“We can make libraries for other people,” Culhane said.

Culhane said these Sutton boxes are the latest of numerous sites installed across the Valley such as the Valley Hotel, Turkey Red, Sunrise Grill, and the Sutton Post Office. She said they’ve received support from numerous local businesses like Fireside Books and Bishop’s Attic for their efforts, including a recent silent auction.

“Keeping those stocked is an ongoing effort. The one at Vagabond Blues has taken between five and seven boxes of books every couple days right now,” Culhane said. “There really is a sense that we’re all in this together.”

Culhane and several others established Bright Lights in 2019 to save books from being recycled into paper products, to give them a second shot at literary life. She said they’ve achieved a save rate of around 99 percent, noting that they’re still working on a solution for textbooks.

Books donated to the Bright Lights program cycle through a used bookshop/holding center at Valley Community for Recycling Solutions and dispersed across the community through various Little Libraries.

Culhane said they regularly visit with residents at the Mat-Su Senior Senior Services and local youth at the Sutton Library. She said they plan to expand to other places across the Valley over time.

“This is so very important. For the kids, to get them reading now is so critical,” Culhane said.

Culhane said that she intends to resume shipping books to Alaskan villages. She said that’s another major component of their overall efforts.

“Books can transform people and transform their lives,” Culhane said.

Culhane said that she feels confident in the program’s future, especially with the continued support of organizations such as the MSHF who recently awarded them a $5,00 grant. She said that individuals and groups keep taking notice of what they’re doing, further inspiring them to expand onward and upward with new ideas like starting a “Book-Mobile” that will regularly make trips across the Valley to get books in locals hands, particularly the youth, in addition to setting up at events like the Alaska State Fair.

“It helped incredibly,” Culhane said. “I live in a truly amazing area... This is only going to get bigger.”

The Bright Lights Book Project overview presentation starts at 5 p.m. Thursday evening at the Sutton Public Library, located at 11301 North Chickaloon Way.

Those interested in bringing used books for the program are encouraged to bring them to the recycling center inside marked boxes.

For more information, call 907-745-4747, email alysculhane@hotmail.com, or visit facebook.com/Rescued-Books-Bookstore-106590040890765.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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