The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

November 9, 2013

A 'little' literary movement

By Katie Dahlstrom Herald Assistant Editor
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — Clinton residents who have devoured books for years are using their collections of books to build the community and connect Clinton to a worldwide movement of reading enthusiasts.

Outside Ines and Pedro Becerra's home at 1120 Sweet Briar Lane, the family raised a Little Free Library filled with rows of children's books open for anyone in the community to take and return books.

After seeing a news report about Little Free Libraries, a movement that started four years ago in Wisconsin, Ines immediately went online to learn how she could bring the take a book, return a book project to Clinton.

"We have so many books. I used to give them away and you don't want to throw books away. I hope it will have a good impact on Clinton," Ines said. "I think through reading you can learn so much."

Diane Underwood, an avid reader who lives at 711 Fifth Ave. South, also was inspired to establish a Little Free Library from a news report.

"I thought I would love that, it's so marvelous," Underwood said. "Books are meant to be read and shared."

The Little Free Library movement was started in 2009 by Todd Bol, of Hudson, Wis., and Rick Brooks, of Madison, Wis. Bol built a model of a one-room school house as a tribute to his mother, a former teacher with a love for reading.

Bol and Brooks put together the strategies that led to other Little Free Libraries being installed in other states and communities.

Their goal was to see 2,510 Little Free Libraries built across the country — as many as Andrew Carnegie built. They reached this goal in August 2012.

By January 2014, the total number of registered Little Free Libraries worldwide is conservatively estimated to be between 10,000 and 12,000, with thousands more being built.

Bol and Brooks credit the people most responsible for the success of the movement as the "early adopters," or the first people to purchase and plant the libraries and become stewards of the Little Free Library mission: to promote a sense of community, reading for children, literacy for adults and libraries around the world.

People who want to set up a Little Free Library can go about it in several ways: building their own, ordering one from the non-profit organization or sponsoring one for a community in need.

The Becerras and Underwood went with the former.

The Becerra's white wooden structure decorated with colorful animal stickers sits in their front yard waiting for eager readers.

Three weeks ago, Ines received her official charter sign, making the library a part of the Little Free Library network. Evidence of the Becerra's project made the Little Free Library map around the same time, with a small yellow house icon designating the library's location.

About 35 children's books fill the Becerra's Little Free Library, though Ines plans to add more for children up to age 12 to enjoy. She also will add more holiday and winter-themed books as the season approaches.

In the three weeks since her library opened for business, Becerra has seen a handful of visitors and a few new books. Although she hopes more will peruse and select books, she's elated by every visitor.

"I love it. It's really neat to see the kids looking to see what they can find," Ines said. "It's always a surprise what you're going to get."

Underwood's son built the library as a Mother's Day present, putting it up this year. The library outside Underwood's home is wooden with two levels and glass doors. She soon filled it with adult and children's books, which have been read, returned or replaced by readers young and old.

Although she plans to, Underwood has yet to register her Little Free Library and get it on the map. Even without the official charter sign placarded on the side, she said people seemed to gravitate toward the library, bringing to fruition her vision to connect the neighborhood through books.

"I would love to see these in every neighborhood in Clinton," Underwood said. "And it isn't my Little Free Library. This doesn't belong to me, I'm the steward. It belongs to the community."