Local reader’s Little Library expands options for bookworms

Sean C. Morgan

It doesn’t matter where she goes.

When she finishes one book, reading addict Mary Koch can quickly find another, and now she’s contributing to the cause with the creation of a “little lending library” in front of her house.

She invites everyone to take a book or leave a book from her box, located at 4502 Long St., the north side of the street.

She discovered the concept when she spotted a little library in Brownsville.

“I stopped and looked at it,” she said. Then she looked the idea up online. After a little research online, she was ready to build hers.

Her effort is the second one of its kind that The New Era is aware of, aimed at the general community.

Former Sweet Home High School art teacher Gelindo Ferrin placed one in front of his house on Elm Street several years ago, across from Oak Heights Elementary, 605 Elm St.

This summer, Sweet Home Public Library has set up five little libraries targeting children throughout the Sweet Home School District. One is located at each city school, Foster, Hawthorne and Oak Heights. Another is located at the Boys and Girls Club, and the fifth is located at Crawfordsville Market.

The library staff encourage children to take books from them, and they can also drop books off in the libraries for other readers.

“I thought it was a great idea,” Koch said. “One day, I went out to my little barn and started building.”

Her husband Don Koch assisted her.

She intends to register her little library with “Little Free Library,” a website that will allow her little library to be placed on a map of little libraries around the country located at littlefreelibrary.org.

Using that online map, people can find little free libraries anywhere, Koch said. “If I’m traveling and I finish my book, I can get another one.”

She thinks the idea is great for people who don’t want to go out and buy books or for some reason don’t want a library card, Koch said. “I love getting books in the hands of kids. I like the thought of when I get done with a book, it doesn’t have to go to waste.”

It keeps the books moving among readers, she said, and it doesn’t matter if people leave books when they take a book.

At first, few people looked at her little library, she said, but it’s gotten busy the past couple of weeks.

The books in the box are free to all, Koch said, and when she painted the words “free to all” on the box, people started using it.

The children are using it too because the children’s books she leaves in the box are frequently gone.

If the box runs out of books, she restocks it by visiting yard sales and the Friends of the Library bookstore.

Sweet Home Public Library Director Rose Peda said Koch’s effort is “a wonderful idea.” Peda said she is happy to see little libraries that target the community at large.

“Having access to books just increases the probability that people are going to read. We have a lot of people in our community who walk. In our community, you can just walk by one and get a book. It keeps your mind sharp. It helps you explore other ideas. It engages the brain.”

The library’s little libraries have been a success too, she said. “We’ve been encouraging parents when they come to our programs to walk around the community, to find the little libraries and to use them.”

The Public Library installed them in partnership with the School District and Boys and Girls Club in May.

Children are using them, she said. Children are leaving books. She recalled one girl taking two books and replacing them with two other books.

That’s not required, Peda said. Children are welcome to simply take the books that are in the little libraries.

Her library is stocking the little libraries with everything from picture books to junior fiction to appeal to all ages, she said. A volunteer restocks them once per week using “generous” donations from the Elks and the Rotary Club. Comcast also is planning to donate, and Peda is working on an application for a grant from Spirit Mountain Casino for additional books.

In some cases, she said, the volunteer is topping off a little library, and sometimes the little libraries are depleted.

The Boys and Girls Club little library is the busiest, Peda said.

The more opportunity for children to read, the better, she said. The focus is on getting children in the community to read even if they don’t have a way to access the library.

At times, it can be a little bit of a conflict with the summer learning and recreational activities there, she said.

“The kids will come in, and the kids will just want to sit and read the book.”

For more information about little free libraries, visit littlefreelibrary.org or call the library at (541) 367-5007.