Looking for some low-tech entertainment for the kids over the holidays?
How about a book from one of the Hall County schools’ “Little Free Libraries?”
No worries if the local library branch is closed; take a quick drive by your nearest Hall County school, and you will find brightly colored little book dwellings like the one alongside the Flowery Branch Elementary School
“Anyone is welcome to borrow books from them,” said the school’s media specialist Karen Hickey. There are even GPS coordinates on the Little Free Library website to guide you there.
Out of town visiting friends and family, or vacationing at the beach? There’s probably a little free library there as well; the program is global.
In 2009, Hudson, Wis., resident Todd Bol built a model of a one-room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a former schoolteacher who loved reading.
Bol filled the tiny classroom with books — and posted it in his front yard, with the sign “free books.” His neighbors were delighted. He built more and began to give them away.
Enter Rick Brooks, of Madison, Wis., who found Bol’s idea intriguing for its potential as a social enterprise that promoted green practices and community.
The pair were inspired by American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who lent support to more than 2,500 free public libraries, as well as other traveling libraries and take-a-book, leave-a-book programs in public spaces and coffee shops. The goal of the program now is to surpass Carnegie’s figure, and continue housing little book collections throughout the world.
Tricia Barry, Friendship Elementary’s media specialist said she believes this is one of the most beneficial programs any community could have to encourage reading.
“Some parents do not have the time to take their children to the public library,” Barry said. “It is much more convenient to drive by any one of our Hall County schools where they can drive by and choose a book.”
In Hall County, the small libraries were installed this past May in anticipation of summer break, and as part of the school system’s summer reading initiative. At summer’s end, it was decided the program should be continued year-round, said Barry, “to support our communities with the opportunity to access literature.”
“It is important that people know that it’s for our whole community, not just for our kids, Hickey said. “Some of the other schools have adult books.”
And for those whose work hours conflict with those of the traditional library, the Little Free Library is always open.
The books are also useful to those for whom English is their second language.
“Some non-English-speaking populations use them,” said Hickey, “to help them learn English.”
Each of the school system’s free libraries is managed by its home school, Barry said. “The media specialist at each school is responsible for checking on their library and maintaining an appropriate amount of reading material from which to choose.”
Barry said parents and the community can support the program by using it, as well as looking through their own bookshelves for books they would like to donate.
“We want to make sure that we fill our libraries with current popular titles that people want to read,” Barry said.
Beyond actual books, “Additional funding is necessary to purchase high-demand titles,” she said.
Barry’s goal for the program is greater participation.
“Some of our schools use a guest book where people in the community can sign in to show they visited,” Barry said. “I would like for all of our schools to use this so we can properly track how often our libraries are being visited.”
To learn more about the Little Free Library program, to create one of your own or find one near you, visit www.littlefreelibrary.org.