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Little Free Libraries popping up in Ill.

Published: Thursday, June 12, 2014 6:30 a.m. CST
Caption
In this May 7, 2014 photo, Randy Phipps, a senior at Sangamon Valley High School, secures the Little Free Library charter number to the library outside Casey's General Store on West Mound in Decatur. The library was built in his building trades class at the Heartland Technical Academy. (AP Photo/Herald & Review, Danny Damiani)

DECATUR (AP) — Daniel Askew and his family have good access to the Barclay Public Library, but that could change after he graduates from high school and they have fewer reasons to drive to Warrensburg from their home in Latham.

So Askew, a senior and volunteer firefighter, is happy to have had a hand in building two of the four Little Free Libraries in the process of sprouting up around the library district, including one to come outside the Latham Fire Protection District firehouse.

"It will be nice," he said earlier this month before planting one of his creations on the northwest side of Decatur. "We have a little park and a bench (in Latham), and a lot of people go there with their families, and some of them bring books."

This collaboration between the Barclay district and Jerry Buckley's building trades class at Heartland Technical Academy is but one of the most recent efforts locally to make books more accessible via Little Free Libraries.

Judy Selle, a member of the Decatur Public Library Book Club, was apparently the first Decatur resident to put one up, installing one in October at her home at 75 Phillips Drive.

Pam Smith, who lives at 2530 S. Forest Crest Road on Decatur's southwest side, is among those who have followed suit, in her case after her husband gave her a barn-style little library for Christmas.

They first saw them while riding bicycles together in Ohio.

"We were like, 'Wow, they have awesome mailboxes out here, what are these things?'" Smith said. "We kept seeing them and were intrigued by them."

While the barn theme reflects her profession as an agricultural reporter, it has added significance.

"I used to hide in the barn and read in the hay loft when I was growing up on the farm," Smith said. "It had a much deeper meaning than what (my husband) realized. It was perfect."

Todd Bol started the Little Free Library movement in 2009 when he built one that looked like a one-room school house in Hudson, Wisconsin, as a tribute to his mother.

The goal quickly became to build as many little libraries as Andrew Carnegie constructed full-size ones - 2,510 - a target surpassed in August of 2012. There are an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 registered Little Free Libraries in the world today, most of them in the United States.

The idea is to let people give a book and take a book with no deadlines or fines to interfere with the pleasure of reading.

"I put books out there that I've enjoyed and that I'm ready to part ways with," Smith said. "It's not so hard to get rid of the books if I think I'm passing them on to somebody in a meaningful way."

Lacey Wright, director of the Barclay library district, said she's been wanting to put in Little Free Libraries for a couple years to extend her library's reach.

"It's not feasible to have a building in every community we serve," she said. "I think we're the first library district in the area to jump on the bandwagon."

Buckley, a resident of Latham, was happy to have his students construct and install the little libraries for Barclay, assigning four from Warrensburg-Latham High School to build them out of scrap materials at Heartland Technical Academy and taking the whole class on a road trip May 7 to put up two outside different Casey's General Stores.

Students set the first at the corner of West Mound Road and North Taylorville Avenue in Decatur and the second at 150 S. Illinois 121 in Warrensburg. Buckley has since put in another at Harristown Elementary School and plans to install the one in Latham soon.

Askew worked with fellow senior Gabe Buchanan to build two of them, while the other two were built by juniors Parker Kendrick and Tanner Woodruff.

Buchanan and Woodruff both live in Decatur and said the first Little Free Library they put up May 7 will be handy.

"I'm going to come back and get some books for my little brother," Buchanan said. "He doesn't know how to read yet, but he likes to be read to."

Wright went behind the construction students, stocking each little library with the "best-looking titles" from the district's book sale last week.

"We'll have an employee visit them at least once a week to make sure they have enough books and they remain in good working order," she said.

Dennis School recently installed a Little Free Library as well, bringing up Decatur's unofficial total to four.

Smith said she is excited to see little libraries catching on locally. Aside from their quaint looks, she believes there is another reason the community is taking to them.

"It's infectious; it makes people feel good to share," she said.

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