By Kelly Youngblood
You’ve probably seen them dotting neighborhoods in your town and mistaken them for a birdhouse or even a newspaper rack.
But if you take a closer look, you’ll see these unique boxes are filled with books! And you are welcome to “take a book, return a book” anytime.
That’s the motto of the Little Free Library, a concept that got started five years ago in Wisconsin. Since it began in 2009, over 15,000 Little Free Libraries have popped up all over the world — including in Champaign and Mahomet (see below for more information).
The mission of the Little Free Library is simple- to promote literacy and a love of reading and to bring community members together. It operates on an “honors system.” People can take a book (or two) and bring back a new book the next time they are in the area. The hope is that the library is always full of great book choices.
Amy Webb, a librarian at Sangamon Elementary School in Mahomet, decided to put one up in front of her school because she liked the idea of “promoting reading in a neighborhood setting.”
“(It’s a place) where the book borrowers have the freedom to choose any book they’d like, keep it as long as they’d like, give the book to someone else that may enjoy the book, and be a part of a community project where they can contribute to the collection,” she said.
Webb says she also hoped the Little Free Library would help encourage students to continue reading over the summer and give families an opportunity to do something together.
“I guess I also have this vision of families walking together on a nice evening, stopping by the Little Free Library, and picking out some books to enjoy together.” Webb said.
Anyone can start their own Little Free Library. You can build your own brand new box or re-purpose one out of old materials. Kits can also be ordered from an online catalog. Costs for kits start at about $200.
Webb was able to obtain an old newspaper box from The News Gazette which she repainted and added extra features like an information box and a solar light.
However, not everyone who has a library will register it so it’s possible more exist in your area than what is listed on the map index or the appendix.
Here are a few Little Free Libraries that were currently listed in the C-U area:
702 N. Timberview Drive
601 E Main St. (Sangamon Elementary)
1724 Robert Drive
507 Hessel Boulevard
28 E Springfield Avenue, 2nd Floor (The I.D.E.A. Store)
If you know of any more Little Free Libraries in the area, let us know!
For more information about the Little Free Library program and how to start one in your neighborhood, go to Little Free Libraries.org.