Mini-library movement to arrive in Beloit

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Charles Haynes places a book in the "little free library" he's placed on his property on Fifth Street along the bike trail. People can take books for free, keep them or return them and donate books to share with others. Several of the birdhouse-like containers will be placed around town for use.

About two years ago, Todd Bol and Rick Brooks came up with a novel idea.

No pun intended.

Bol, a carpenter/businessman and Brooks, a supporter of community development and a library fundraiser, combined their talents.

The results? So far, 300 to 400 “Little Free Library” birdhouse-like containers in 24 states and eight foreign countries.

And that is about to be expanded in Beloit.

But these houses aren’t for birds.

They are for books — free books — that people can keep or return and for donating their own books to share with others.

Brooks and Bol visited several sites in Beloit Friday helping to further spread the word about their program.

Brooks, a 1969 Beloit College graduate, had previously given a presentation to the Beloit Rotary Club, said Dr. Jane Fossum, member of a committee formed to help steer the program in Beloit.

At that time, a couple of the little libraries were donated.

A couple of the libraries are located at Bushel & Peck’s Local Market in downtown Beloit and one is located on Beloit City Councilman Charles Haynes’ property on Fifth Street along the bike path.

Haynes set his up about a month ago and has seen much activity already, he said.

More are planned for other businesses in the city such as at McDonald’s restaurants on Milwaukee Road, Madison Road and State Street as well as Culver’s restaurant on Cranston Road.

“It sounded like a really neat idea to bring it to a town like Beloit to keep the sense of community going,” said Guy T. Bucciferro, owner of the three McDonald’s where the libraries will go.

With the amount of traffic the restaurant generates, it also should help promote the program and literacy, he said.

He plans to have the units up in about two weeks.

Brooks said other Little Free Libraries may go on the Beloit College campus and in another location in downtown Beloit.

The idea is to help build community and serve the community while encouraging literacy.

“It’s a real grassroots effort,” he said.

He added, In today’s world, neighbors often don’t know each other.

“This seems to have struck a cord with people. People meet other people this way — they walk their dogs past and take their kids along,” he said.

Books for children and adults can be donated.

The sturdy libraries are mounted on wooden posts. In the beginning, Bol used his carpentry skills and built some. He was inspired to do so as a memorial to his mother, who was a teacher in Hudson, Wis.

Since then, several more have been Amish-made, Brooks said.

Local resident Marty Densch became involved with the project after hearing about it at the Rotary Club presentation.

He is donating funds to the program in memory of his late wife, from the Colleen Burns’ Memorial Fund, handled by Stateline Community Foundation.

“It’s a fitting tribute for Colleen,” Densch said. “She loved reading and she loved sharing books — that’s what this program is all about.”

Anyone interested in obtaining a Little Free Library can contact the committee through Fossum by calling 608-362-4044. Or, by visiting the website, information on how to build or obtain a container, cost, where to place it, kinds of books to donate and more can be found.

For more information on the program, visit: littlefreelibrary.org

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