News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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April 18, 2014

VCPL to install free ‘little libraries’

More than 12 locations around city will each hold up to 100 free books

TERRE HAUTE — Coming soon to a neighborhood near you: A Little Free Library.

The Vigo County Public Library is looking to plant more than a half-dozen “Little Free Libraries” all around the area.

These new innovations are small, outdoor weather-proof boxes that contain between 20 and 100 books. The idea is for people to take a book and leave one. Or just take one and bring it back later. It’s all on the honor system, but the idea seems to be working around the state and the country.

The library hopes to launch Little Free Libraries in the Terre Haute area in May or June, said Brittany Michaels, community connections coordinator for the VCPL.

“Little Free Libraries” is a not-for-profit organization that started in Wisconsin in the past few years. Today, there are around 400 official Little Free Libraries around the U.S., not including “grassroots” free libraries, such as one erected in Rosedale in 2012 by Mike and Joanie Lunsford.

“Our library has been very busy,” said Mike Lunsford, a Tribune-Star columnist who loves books and wanted to promote reading in his small Parke County community. He and Joanie worked with friends and neighbors to get a small, free lending library planted outside the Rosedale Dollar General.

The Little Library currently contains dozens of books, including several children’s books. It has experienced no vandalism and seems to be a success, the Lunsfords said.

“I check the library at least once a week,” Joanie said. “Several times I have found the library filled with books when someone has decided to make a huge deposit.”

One of the first VCPL Little Free Libraries will accompany the United Way’s Mobile Market, a traveling fresh-food vendor, Michaels said, adding the library plans to purchase several Little Free Libraries – about $280 each – and hopes to have them around the area soon. Library outreach staff will tend to their maintenance, while the volunteer Friends of the Library will provide the books, she said.

The Duke Energy Foundation has pledged $5,000 to help launch the Little Free Libraries in the area, said Rick Burger, a Duke representative in Terre Haute. “The company did this in Plainfield, and it’s been very successful,” he said. “We’re excited about it.”

There are several official “Little Free Libraries” in Indiana, including Bloomington, Indianapolis and Columbus. Grassroots — or independent free libraries such as the Lunsford’s – are harder to track.

In a meeting with library officials, Mayor Duke Bennett said he gave his support to having some of the Little Free Libraries placed in some of the city’s more popular parks.

“I look at it as another destination for people visiting our parks,” Bennett said Friday. “We’re willing to give it a shot.”

No locations for the Little Free Libraries are yet confirmed, Michaels said, adding that some may be placed near schools. It is hoped the boxes will be decorated to suite their surroundings, she said.

“We really want the unit to reflect the personality of the communities that they are in,” she said. For example, the library with the Mobile Market may have a higher-than-usual volume of cookbooks, Michaels said.

The Vigo County Public Library board of directors in February approved a strategic plan that included the eventual introduction of small, free lending libraries, such as the Little Free Libraries, Michaels noted. The Duke Foundation funding has allowed that idea to move forward, she said.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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