Operation Paperback

Sgt. Justin Ake (left) and Maj. Adam Love (right), with the Pennsylvania U.S. Army National Guard 876th Engineer Battalion in Johnstown, and Vicki Stasiak (center), who works with interlibrary loans at the Cambria County Library and local Operation Paperback coordinator, sort through book donations in the Cambria County Library’s community room for the library’s Operation Paperback effort on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019

Working together, members of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard 876th Engineer Battalion and Cambria County Library sorted through hundreds of books, separating them into different categories – mysteries, military histories, children’s and more – on Tuesday afternoon.

They were all donated by local residents as part of the library’s first Operation Paperback project.

The books will now be sent to overseas and stateside military personnel, their families and veterans, as part of the nationwide Operation Paperback initiative that has shipped more than 2.2 million books since 1999.

Cambria County Library’s collection drive coincided with the recent Veterans Day. “I thought that it would be a good way for the library to celebrate Veterans Day and to do some outreach to the military community,” reference librarian Laryssa Duncan said. “It got the community as a whole involved with that.”

Duncan, along with Vicki Stasiak, who is involved with interlibrary loans, organized the event.

“My husband served 10 years in the Army, so we have a personal connection to that,” Stasiak said during the sorting that took place inside the library’s community room. “I know that books and taking your mind off of things can be really important.”

Maj. Adam Love knows firsthand how receiving books or other items can help boost the morale of a military member serving overseas.

“I’ve been deployed, so I know what it’s like over there,” Love said. “If you’re not on a mission doing something, you’re sitting back just kind of contemplating what’s next and your mind is wandering. It’s nice to have some care packages coming in to let you know people are thinking about you back at home and also give you something to do in that down time in between missions – books, crossword puzzles, whatever it might be.”

Sgt. Justin Ake added: “The biggest thing is to try to help them pass the downtime. It’s either 100 miles an hour or zero miles an hour. There’s usually not too much in between. And there’s a lot of time over there where it’s zero miles an hour. Stuff like this keeps you from getting bored and helps them pass the time until they get home.”

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.

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