2017-03-05 / Insight

The joy of reading

Little Free Libraries popping up across Lapeer County
BY KRYSTAL MORALEE
810-452-2609 •


Right, Tyler Bartkowiak, a junior from North Branch High School, and Taya Reeder, a Lapeer High School junior, put together the pieces to make a Little Free Library. Right, Tyler Bartkowiak, a junior from North Branch High School, and Taya Reeder, a Lapeer High School junior, put together the pieces to make a Little Free Library. a round the turn of the 20th century, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie set a goal to fund the creation of 2,508 free public libraries across the English-speaking world. Here in Lapeer, the Carnegie Foundation offered $10,000 to build a public library in 1916.

Carnegie’s vision has inspired another movement of local libraries, too, but these ones host much smaller collections. The concept of the Little Free Library was born in 2009, when Todd Bol, a man from Hudson, Wisconsin, built a small replica of a one-room schoolhouse in honor of his mother, who was a teacher, and he filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard. The books were available to anyone and everyone.

The concept of the small library caught on and Bol, along with Rick Brooks of UW-Madison, set a goal of surpassing 2,508 Little Free Libraries by the end of 2013. They met that goal a year and a half before their target date. In 2016, there were more than 50,000 registered Little Free Libraries in all U.S. states and over 70 countries.


Above left, the Little Free Library at Community Mental Health was an Eagle Scout project completed last year by Tucker White. 
Photos by Krystal Moralee Above left, the Little Free Library at Community Mental Health was an Eagle Scout project completed last year by Tucker White. Photos by Krystal Moralee Little Free Libraries are beginning to catch on in Lapeer County as well. They can be found at all of Lapeer Community Schools’ elementary campuses, Community Mental Health, and at least one private residence as well, and plans are in the works to bring them to other locations throughout the county as early as this year.

The beauty of a Little Free Library lies in its simplicity. There is no library card to obtain, and no one keeps track of which books you take or which books you put in. It’s strictly on the honor system. If you come across a Little Free Library, feel free to take a book or two. Next time you come by, do your part to help keep it stocked with fresh material, either by returning the books you borrowed or by adding something new to the collection. If you don’t need a book, but have some good ones to pass along, place them in a library so others can enjoy them.


Above right, Mayfield Elementary has this charming Little Free Library outside the office doors. Above right, Mayfield Elementary has this charming Little Free Library outside the office doors. The local schools that have Little Free Libraries in place have found their own ways to fund them. Some were built from kits, which are available for purchase at littlefreelibrary.org. Others were built by volunteers. The Little Free Library at Community Mental Health, for example, was made by Eagle Scout Tucker White, while the one at Schickler Elementary came through a community service partnership with Fiat Chrysler.


Dawson Klein, a junior at Imlay City High School, cuts pieces of a Little Free Library, which he and other students will be assembling in their Building Trades class at the Lapeer County Education and Technology Center. 
Photo by Krystal Moralee Dawson Klein, a junior at Imlay City High School, cuts pieces of a Little Free Library, which he and other students will be assembling in their Building Trades class at the Lapeer County Education and Technology Center. Photo by Krystal Moralee With Little Free Libraries, anything goes, and the design can be whatever the library steward — that’s the person who takes responsibility for maintaining the library — dreams up. They can be placed publicly or privately, and libraries can be registered at littlefreelibrary.org, and they will be added to the world map so people can find them.

At Murphy Elementary, learning coach Amy Duncan said their library went up at the beginning of the school year. It’s painted blue and green but Duncan said, “we intend to make ours a little more personalized.”

The learning coaches throughout the district started chatting about the libraries, Duncan said, and decided to work to get them in place at the schools. Murphy funded theirs with several Bubble Gum Days, during which students paid a fee to be allowed to chew gum at school, and they read books about gum. Duncan said they will continue to raise funds to keep the library stocked with books.

Meanwhile, at the Lapeer County Education and Technology Center, students in Joe Strachota’s Building Trades class are working on building a number of Little Free Libraries, which will be placed in locations around the county.

“We want to have one, at least, in every area of the county,” said Steve Zott, superintendent for the Lapeer County Intermediate School District.

Zott is also part of the Lapeer Community Collaborative, which has formed a workgroup to identify ways to prepare young children for school, and access to books is an important part of that. There, and through a discussion with Lapeer District Library officials, the concept of Little Free Libraries was introduced, and the ISD was on board with providing some.

Once the libraries are built, Zott said he hopes to collaborate with Lapeer’s Downtown Development Authority Director James Alt to determine where some good locations would be. Alt has been wanting to get some Little Free Libraries downtown as well.

“I believe that Little Free Libraries can be a great enhancement for our downtown and look forward to working with the ISD on placement,” said Alt.

If you’d like to be a Little Free Library steward, all you have to do is build one, or you can purchase a kit and a variety of accessories at littlefreelibrary.org. There are plans on the website, frequently asked questions, a gallery of other libraries, a map with libraries around the world and more.

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