Putnam County will soon be the newest home to Little Free Libraries
HENNEPIN — Libraries are hubs of their communities, a place where residents gather to learn, make connections, share ideas, or simply pick out a good book.
Residents of rural areas, however, may have a challenge getting to a library, but the Putnam County Library District has taken steps to assist them by joining the Little Free Library movement.
“This will be a great outreach for Putnam County, and it will give our residents a better chance to get quality books they may not normally have access to,” Librarian Matt Miller said.
Little Free Libraries is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping communities engage with their “take a book, leave a book” free book exchanges. While they’re generally small wooden boxes that are found in a variety of locations, stewards often use a surprising amount of creativity when building or decorating their Little Free Libraries.
What started as a small, local project in Wisconsin, has since grown into a movement that includes more than 60,000 Little Free Libraries in more than 80 countries.
Nearby Princeton embraced the Little Free Libraries a few years ago after co-founder Rick Brooks retired to the community, and they’ve proved very popular with residents of all ages. Many residents often work in visits to several during their evening walks.
Miller said the county’s five new Little Free Libraries have been funded through a grant and community donations, and their construction has been undertaken by the Putnam County High School FFA class. Each library will require a steward to care for its overall condition and to monitor and maintain the collection within.
Currently, one is scheduled to be installed at Lake Thunderbird, but stewards and locations are still being sought for the others.
The hope is that some will be installed in rural areas where residents may not have easy access to reading materials. Little Free Libraries also often result in an increased connection with neighbors.
“LFLs can help bridge the gap when traditional access to books isn’t available. In rural areas, for example, public libraries can use LFLs to reach farther into the community. We currently work with more than 600 public libraries across the country who use them for community outreach,” Margret Aldrich, of the Little Free Library organization and author of “The Little Free Library Book,” said.
Brooks added the book exchanges also frequently lead to the creation of a variety of additional and socially beneficial events such as inter-generational reading programs and book clubs.
Anyone may contribute or take books from a Little Free Library. If you take a book from one, you don’t have to return that exact book. However, in order to keep them stocked with a variety of choices for the whole community, people are encouraged to add a book of their own to share. In other words, they work on the honor system; everyone contributes, and everyone benefits.
According to the Little Free Library website, three out of four people report they’ve read a book they normally wouldn’t have read because of a Little Free Library. Seventy-three percent also say they’ve met more of their neighbors because of a little library, and 92 percent say their neighborhood feels like a friendlier place because of the addition of an Little Free Library.
In addition, up to 61 percent of low-income families report they don’t have any books for their children at home, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
The multi-award-winning Little Free Library organization has partnered with such organizations as Rotary International, Lions International, Girl Scouts, the Library of Congress, AARP, multiple law enforcement agencies, Scouts BSA, Kiwanis International, United Way, the YMCA, the National Book Foundation, Habitat for Humanity and many more, including several major corporations.
To become a steward or for more local information, contact Miller at 815-925-7020. To learn more about the Little Free Library organization and to see the photo gallery of the many creative little libraries that have been crafted with a personal touch, visit www.littlefreelibrary.org.