What's red, white, read all over? 'Little Free Library'
Librarian recycles old N-G rack into book-swap box with motto: Take 1, return 1
MAHOMET — The village's newest library isn't very spacious. But its creator hopes it has a big impact on kids' summer reading.
Sangamon School Librarian Amy Webb installed a "Little Free Library" outside the school's front doors last week.
The goal, Webb said, is "just to share a love of reading."
Little Free Libraries got their start in 2009, when a Wisconsin resident built a small model schoolhouse, filled it with books and installed it in his yard. Since then, thousands have been built — all from recycled materials — and scattered across communities nationwide. Several have been established in Champaign County.
Their motto is "take a book, return a book."
Users don't necessarily have to return the same book they took. There are no cards to stamp and no records to keep. Local residents are free to donate books by leaving them in the box. The only stipulation, Webb said, is that the selections be appropriate for students in kindergarten through third grade.
The books inside don't come from the Sangamon library. Some were donated, while Webb purchased others at the Friends of the Mahomet Public Library book sale and garage sales.
The Little Free Library is housed in an old News-Gazette newspaper rack. Webb stripped off the orange-and-blue paint and then added a new coat of red with white accents. She also replaced the Plexiglass in front, removed the locking mechanism and installed a solar-powered light on top, documenting the work on the Sangamon library's Facebook page as she went.
"Even for me, it's been fun to watch the progress," she said.
There's also a pocket on the side with information about Little Free Libraries and local reading programs.
Since the Little Free Library appeared outside Sangamon, Webb said, "kids come in and ask, 'What's that box out front?'" She's also received a lot of interest from parents.
She hopes that families and kids out and about in the evenings will stop by and check out books, making it part of their summer routine.
During the summer, some kids tend to let their reading skills slide. But "you have some readers who will definitely keep reading," Webb said.
With the school year coming to a close, she encourages all kids to reinforce their reading skills over the summer by reading with their families or participating in the programs offered at Mahomet Public Library.
If the idea takes off, Webb would like to install more Little Free Libraries around the community.
"Hopefully, this is just my first one," she said.
Amelia Benner is editor of the Mahomet Citizen, a News-Gazette community newspaper. For more, visit mcitizen.com.