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Little Libraries growing in area

BY PAUL OSGERBY | JUNE 19, 2014 5:00 AM

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One organization has established a more than mailbox-sized presence in Iowa City.

Little Free Library, an international project that came to Iowa City in 2012, is expanding.

“All around now, neighborhoods can have books within a couple blocks,” said John Kenyon, the executive director of the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature.

There are 34 registered Little Libraries in the Iowa City area, according to the City of Literature website. Kenyon said he believes there are actually 50 to 60 in the area.

Each unit can hold anywhere from 10 to 20 books.

Although an official Little Free Library logo was free in the past, there is now a $30 charge for individuals interested in displaying the logo on the unit, Neighborhood Outreach Coordinator Marcia Bollinger said.

This has caused a significant number of Little Libraries to pop up in local communities that are missing official registration.

The goal of the program is geared to getting books in the hands of readers, Kenyon said. People can then meet and talk with each other in the neighborhood and build a stronger sense of community.

Todd Bol built the first Little Free Library in Hudson, Wisconsin, in 2009 after his mother, an avid reader and teacher, passed away. He was searching for a way to commemorate her.

The idea was based on the “Take a Book, Leave a Book” ideology.

“I think the key is interaction throughout the community with these projects,” said Susan Craig, the director of the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St., who built her own Little Library at home.

In the Public Library, there is a similar type of free book exchange for less used books.

Both projects are aimed toward promoting reading in general, Craig said.

According to the Little Free Library quarterly report from September 2013 posted on its website, there are approximartely 10,000 to 11,000 such libraries accounted for in 52 different countries. It was estimated that more than 3 million books were exchanged that year.

“People can put them in without approval from us or the city — there’s no process,” Kenyon said. “As long as it meets city code, you can do it.”

He said that people interested in building a Little Library could contact the City of Literature for information on resources.

The typical cost for these birdhouse-shaped book exchanges is $150 to $200.

However, the Little Free Library website encourages interested individuals to use as many recycled materials as possible.

“I’ve seen libraries made out of old bread boxes and kitchen cabinets,” Bollinger said.

The website now also offers applications for up to $75 in reimbursement for building materials.

“We are a large community of readers,” Craig said. “It’s amazing for a town this size.”

Kenyon noted that the project is growing in the regional area.

With the help of Tim Terry, a cofounder of the Terry, Lockridge, and Dunn financial firm, the neighborhood of Wellington Heights in Cedar Rapids is now home to a new Little Library.

“It makes a statement in the neighborhood that they are community-minded,” Bollinger said. “They want to share the enthusiasm.”


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