By Elizabeth Wehman, editor

MARY HINDS has joined the international movement with her own, “Little Free Library” in her front yard at Krust St. in Owosso. Her very own project is shown here and is sponsored by the nonprofit Little Free Library organization which began in 2009. Tom Cook has also established his own library in front of his home on Washington St., as well. Both have adopted the concept created by the organization of, “Take a book, Return a book.” (Independent Photos/Elizabeth Wehman)

Here’s how it works. Homeowners put up a wooden box resembling a school house, in their yard. Guidelines, specifications, and rules need to be met. Books are added, not only for adults, but children as well. Those sharing in the library are asked to take a book, free of charge, and either return it or add a new book to share. The concept is simple, but the benefits may far outweigh the creative idea.

The libraries are called, “Little Free Librarys” and are part of an international movement started and created by Todd H. Bol, from Wisconsin, in 2009. Bol’s ideas were to, “promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide and to build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity, and wisdom across generations. There are nearly 40,000 Little Free Library book exchanges around the world, bringing curbside literacy home and sharing millions of books annually.” Bol’s idea grew so much that in May of 2012 he started a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization. It is now in 50 states as well as in more than 70 countries.

In Oct. of 2015, Little Free Library was awarded the Library of Congress Literacy Award for its effective implementation of best practices in literacy and reading promotion.

Those setting up a Little Free Library on their lawn or at their organization are called, stewards. Some people build their own library and others may purchase a Little Library box from the organization. The organization now has an annual budget of $2 million and is supported by a board of directors. Their goal, as an organization, is to grow to 100,000 libraries worldwide by the end of 2017. The nonprofit organization has won several awards for their concept. Public libraries are now on board to partner with the organization to expand the impact. Now 16 million books are being exchanged through the Little Free Libraries worldwide.

Also on board with the project is the Rotary Foundation District #6310 which includes 32 clubs from as far south as Durand to Alpena in the north. Not only are they making plans now to celebrate their 100 year anniversary but they have chosen a project as their September theme to encourage literacy and the reading of good books. They have asked each club to place one, “Little Free Library” in each community. Watch the Independent Newspaper for future news on the Rotary Club 100 year celebration and their upcoming project.

The reason Bol started the organization was to be as a tribute to his mother. His mother was a teacher who loved to read. He built a small model of a one room schoolhouse and filled it with books on a post in his front yard. It was so well received that neighbors and friends loved it and Bol began building more little schoolhouses. Each one had a sign that read, “Free books.” Each little library needs to be registered and get an official charter sign. There is a one-time registration fee of $40 per library. To use the name, “Little Free Library” you must have an official charter sign and charger number for your library. To find out more details, or to purchase your own “Little Free Library,” interested persons may check out the website at www.littlefreelibrary.org.

“Take a Book, Return a Book” was last modified: August 1st, 2016 by Karen Elford