By Linda Dillman
Little Libraries are popping up across the Hamilton Township area bringing the opportunity for children of all ages to enjoy finding and taking a book home.
Organizer Karen Schutte began the project in the spring of 2019, along with the help of Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, churches, an Obetz market, and volunteers.
“I knew that the Columbus Metropolitan Library had ceased it’s bookmobile service in our area and also our district’s participation in their Summer Reading program was very low,” said Schutte, who is a library media specialist at Hamilton Elementary. “I thought having Little Libraries in each of our neighborhood pockets might be a better way for our kiddos to get reading materials. The Hamilton Elementary PTO provided financial support of $300 to begin building our first 4 structures.”
Girl Scout troop leader Violet Callahan said her scouts were looking for a service project when she overheard Schutte at school talking about the library project. Her daughter Kendra said she and her sister helped paint the unfinished structures before they were placed around town.
“We’ve had a huge feedback from the community,” said Callahan “and we’re trying to get more placed throughout the community. We’ve had tons of donations and it’s always good for kids to read. People who live near them tell us they’re busy with people borrowing books.”
The free-standing structures are located in easily accessible locations, including the Lockbourne United Methodist Church, 1270 Vause St.; in Hamilton Meadows on Middle School Street by the school district’s administrative offices; at the corner of Service Drive and Edgeview Road; in Southpointe Village next to the rental office at 3940 Southpointe Boulevard.; at the K&M Market, 4305 Lancaster Avenue in Obetz; at Reese Chapel, 4747 Ridge Street; and Hamilton Lakes North, 4267 Sestos Drive.
Future Little Libraries are planned for Dexter Village, Southern Pines, and two in the village of Obetz.
“The idea is to ‘take a book, leave a book,’ but we never want to discourage a child who does not have a book to leave without taking one,” said Schutte. “If a child falls in love with a book from the little library, they may definitely keep it. This is all about encouraging the love of books and reading.”
According to Schutte, organizers want the structures to be easily accessible. However, younger children may need some assistance opening the doors and reaching books.
The initial intent was to offer books for children in preschool through sixth grade, but people have also left novels geared for older audiences as well.
As long as adult items do not take up too much room, Schutte leaves them on the library shelves for older borrowers.
“If the library is full, I suggest checking back at another time or feel free to take a few items out to read,” she said.
Schutte and volunteers—such as second grade teacher Bethany Moore, the Callahan family and Girl Scout troop 6091, and the Corney family and Boy Scout troop 526—monitor the libraries at least once a week to check on book stock and condition of the structures, including a supply of hand sanitizer to keep both contents and borrowers safe.
“We have had no problems with people leaving anything inappropriate,” said Schutte.
A temporary Blessing Box by the Service/Edgeview Road site started when COVID-19 first hit and contained canned and boxed goods, but it became a nuisance, so it was removed.
“It was a nice thought at the time. There is actually a Blessing Box beside the one at the Lockbourne United Methodist Church and it has not become a problem,” said Schutte.
She acknowledges that, while people believe everyone has access to libraries and technology, the pandemic brought to light this is not necessarily the case.
“We do not have a public library in our school district, some children do not have devices to read online, and some children do not have transportation to go to a public library, so I believe these Little Libraries can give children the opportunity to continue to read and grow,” said Schutte. “It can be something they look forward to visiting.”
For information on donating books, email at firstname.lastname@example.org.