Smith: Summit County welcomes Little Free Libraries at local schools (column)
September 2, 2016
Editor's note: Ben Trollinger's column will return next Saturday.
I've been reading books since I can remember — I have my parents and family to thank for that. Books were always a part of our daily routine, with nightly installments of Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House on the Prairie" series read cuddled up in my parents' bed. In fact, I can't remember a time when I couldn't read. It wasn't until I grew older that I realized what a gift that truly is.
The thing is, books are the world's greatest connector. We can read the innermost thoughts of people who died a thousand years ago. We can read the ideas of people on the opposite side of the globe, who speak completely different languages. Books open worlds, minds, hearts. Books are magic.
That magic should be available to everyone and, sadly, sometimes it isn't. That's why libraries are so wonderful. However, even they can't do the trick all the time. This is where Little Free Libraries come in.
Little Free Libraries is a nonprofit organization that promotes the placement of mailbox-sized boxes of books throughout communities. The concept is "take a book, leave a book," where anyone is encouraged to take a free book from the little library, and donate later in return. It's the same give-and-take mentality that has existed in coffee shops and similar public spaces worldwide. Nearly every hostel I've ever visited has had shelves full of battered books — books that have been shoved into backpacks, read by the seaside and on top of mountains, at the foot of monuments, and now await their next adventure at another traveler's hands.
About two years ago, my colleague and former Summit Daily arts and entertainment editor Krista Driscoll brought up Little Free Libraries during a meeting about community outreach. She came up with the excellent idea to repurpose old Summit Daily newspaper boxes into Little Free Libraries that we could then distribute around the community. We were never able to devote as much time to the project as we wanted, but now, this month, I'm happy to announce that the Summit Daily has partnered with the Summit County School District to make local Little Free Libraries a reality.
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Each Summit elementary school, plus the Peak School, now has its own repurposed news box, destined shortly to be decorated and filled with books (look for a photo collection of all the decorated boxes to show up in the newspaper around the end of the month). These boxes will sit outside of the schools, so anyone can swing by to either borrow or donate books. Each box will also be registered with the Little Free Libraries organization to receive its own unique serial number and a spot on the Little Free Libraries online registry. Eventually, we'd love to create more Little Free Libraries throughout the community, but starting with the schools feels like a great step, and a big thanks goes out to all the school district personnel who have helped make that happen.
As a kid, I thought every home came with bookshelves. As an adult, I know that's not true, and that only motivates me further to champion literacy in any way possible. Let's do what we can to put books into everyone's hands who wants them. If bookshelves can't be in the house, let's put them on the street. Because books are magic, and everyone should experience that.
Jessica Smith is the content management editor at the Summit Daily News. If you'd like more information about Little Free Libraries in Summit, donating books or just to talk about books and writing in general, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.