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A 'Little' Global Movement Reaches Oak Creek — And It's Free

The first Little Free Library in Oak Creek has opened outside a resident's home. So, just what is this little movement all about?

There's a little movement occurring around the globe that relies on old-fashioned principles of trust, community and literacy.

And the movement has arrived in Oak Creek.

Leigh Dorsey started the first "Little Free Library" in Oak Creek outside her home at 510 E. Bonita Drive. The concept is simple: people visit a birdhouse-sized box, take a book that interests them, and replace it with another.

Anyone can use them, and readers are encouraged to put their name in the book or pass on a note to the next reader.

But as Dorsey notes, the level of participation can vary. People can use it once, they can visit frequently, they can simply donate books, or for the very enthusiastic (like Dorsey), they can start one of their own.

And the purpose of the Little Free Library goes even deeper.

A Free Little Library?

The concept is part of a global initiative started by two Wisconsin natives. Hudson's Todd Bol came up with the idea as a way to honor his late mother, a teacher who loved to read. He teamed up with Madison community outreach expert Rick Brooks, and the idea grew from there.

Their goal was to nurture neighborhoods through literacy, but also bring communities together at these mico-sized gathering places.

"We have found that as soon as they put up their library all their neighbors came," said Megan Hansen, a development specialist with the Little Library organization. "It's just word of mouth once people see one."

Word of mouth certianly does travel. There are about 600 of these little libraries registered around the world, but insiders estimate that well over 3,000 unregistered libraries are in existence.

Dorsey is a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee librarian who was long intrigued by the idea. After months of talking about it, she received the box that now sits outside her home as a birthday gift in June.

Within a day, people were visiting. It's especially been a hit with children in the neighborhood.

"I'm really happy to see the kids doing this," she said. Not only does it get them reading, but it also teaches them to share, she said.

More Than Just Books

While the concept of the free book exchange is simple, other goals of the Little Free Library go deeper.

"One of Todd and Rick's favorite causes to champion books and literacy," Hansen said. "But they're also about community interaction. We can provide a way for people to do that."

Dorsey agreed, saying the library has proved to be a great way to meet her neighbors. She made up fliers and distributed them throughout the neighborhood, and that gave her a chance to introduce herself and explain the project.

People asked about donating and some have left other materials besides books, such as magazines.

Dorsey said she likes leaving for work and coming back to find new books in the box. She also plans to start one at UWM.

"I just think it's a really good concept, not just about the reading but getting people to participate," she said. "I've talked to people I might not have talked to before."

To learn more about opening your own Little Free Library check out the program online. You can also find the location of a registered Free Little Library near you.

Oak Creek Teacher July 26, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Residents can start their own little libraries at the Friends of the Oak Creek Library Book Sale, from 3 to 5 p.m. (for Friends) and from 5 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 7, and from 3 to 8 p.m. Aug. 8. Most of the thousands of books and VHS tapes are just 25 cents each. You also can buy books (at a higher rate) year-round at the library's Book Nook. We just put out a lot of current hardcover fiction today -- like new quality at a fraction of the original price! We also put out sets of discarded VHS tapes (Civil War, WWII and Vietnam War) today as well.
Hillary Wucherer July 26, 2012 at 08:44 PM
What an awesome idea! Sharing is caring :)
oakcreekmom July 27, 2012 at 01:04 PM
This is a great idea!
Tpom July 27, 2012 at 04:34 PM
I see a few good ones in there already, I love Koontz!
charlotte July 27, 2012 at 08:34 PM
This is soooooooooooooo coooooooooooool !!
Lois Champagne July 28, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Glad to be the neighbor of the "little library". What a great idea....my daughter,grandaughter and I have had the fun of using it. Thanks Leigh!!
Monica Thomas August 01, 2012 at 01:51 PM
I'm on the far NW side of OC and have ridden my bike to the LFL at 35th and Parnell several times this summer. I'm looking forward to checking this one out as well. There's a group (I think through MARN) who gets together to build and install these if anyone's interested too. By the way, they're called Little Free Libraries, not Free Little Libraries. The website is littlefreelibrary.org.

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