Take a book, leave a book at little WJ libraries

Messenger photo by Sandi Latimer A Little Free Library stands near the gazebo across from village hall on Main Street in West Jefferson. It is one of four in West Jefferson, open to anyone to take a book or leave a book.
Messenger photo by Sandi Latimer
A Little Free Library stands near the gazebo across from village hall on Main Street in West Jefferson. It is one of four in West Jefferson, open to anyone to take a book or leave a book.

(Posted Jan. 12, 2016)

By Linda Dillman, Staff Writer

A quartet of freestanding Little Free Libraries in West Jefferson provide readers an option to grab a book on the go while walking the dog, taking a stroll or out for a morning jog.

Self-monitored by community members and Jefferson Local Schools staff, with no set borrowing policy, the structures, built to mimic colorful one-room schoolhouses, are filled with books free for the taking. They are restocked in the same manner—by individuals of all ages sharing their love of literature.

Local organizer and Norwood Elementary Principal Sue Barte said the first three libraries were completed and dedicated to three school staff members at Norwood—Doris Picken, Pam Laughlin, and Chris Zechman—in spring 2015. They are located at the gazebo on Main Street near village hall, on the corner of the lot formerly home to Galbreath Hall, and in front of the school.

“We wanted to provide a gift to the community as well as these outstanding educators, so their names were placed on a library,” said Barte.

As for the inspiration for the project, she explained, “I had seen these libraries in other locations and other states. I visited Detroit, Michigan, and I saw one in an area of poverty and ever since then, I knew the love of books had no boundaries. Our art teacher, Mr. (Thomas) Ruane, and one of our building secretaries, Bambi Keckley, together painted and decorated the libraries.”

Funds to purchase the first three libraries were raised through a change collection contest at the school called Penny Wars. Staff members contributed the initial collection of books to stock the libraries. Barte said the community is now contributing and has kept the books circulating.

The fourth Little Free Library was recently added when a community member learned of the program and wanted one erected in her husband’s honor. It is located at the Jefferson Lodge mobile home park.

“These libraries can be made from any materials and do not need to be purchased from LittleFreeLibraries.org,” Barte said. “I have seen old cabinets and even a canoe used as a library. It would be great to see individuals in the community place their own library on their properties.

“Getting the libraries mounted safely does take some time and expertise, but that is the only area that has provided some concern.”

The Little Free Library movement was started by Todd H. Bol and its accelerated expansion came as a result of giving away 30 Little Free Libraries in 2010 and watching them multiply. The official Little Free Library motto is “Take a Book, Return a Book.”

On Oct. 27, 2015, Little Free Library was awarded the Library of Congress Literacy Award for its effective implemen-tation of best practices in literacy and reading promotion. As of the beginning of this year, there are 36,000 Little Free Library book exchanges in all 50 states and over 70 countries.

“Our goal as educators is to get everyone to enjoy books, not just children but adults also,” Barte said. “During hours when we are not in school and maybe not close enough to walk to the library, books are an option for children. We wanted to make sure everyone can have a book in their hands even now when there are so many electronic options.

“I have personally monitored the libraries to make sure they have books but also the community has monitored,” she continued. “One Saturday morning, I received a text message of books being thrown on the ground and the plastic front had been broken. Two hours later, I received another picture and message that the community had picked up the books and fixed the door. Our school librarian monitors the one in the front of the school.”

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