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Find a good read down the street

Robert Houk • May 13, 2018 at 12:00 AM

Members of the Southside Neighborhood Organization say the Little Free Library program has been a big success in the Tree Streets. Launched by the organization in October 2014, the seven lending libraries are getting facelifts this spring.

The libraries, which have been built, stocked and maintained by SNO volunteers, are chartered under Little Free Library, a nonprofit organization founded by a Wisconsin man in 2009. There are now more than 20,000 official little libraries worldwide.

The idea of the libraries is to offer readers of all ages an opportunity to take a book and return a book with no questions asked.

Jodi Jones, a former SNO president, said the goal in establishing the little libraries was to “engage the community,” which she believes has happened in the Tree Streets.

She said the program has been so successful that other communities, including Abingdon, Virginia, want to follow what SNO has done as a model for starting their own little libraries.

“It is really encouraging that we are able to influence others,” she said.

Jones said feedback to a recent survey of homeowners who host one of the little libraries on their property has been very favorable. SNO has sponsored six little libraries on Pine, Poplar, Maple and Locust streets and in Veterans Park at South Side Elementary School. First United Methodist Church also sponsors a little library at its entrance near Maple and Spring streets.

“We wanted to survey everyone at the three-year mark to see how things are going,” Jones said. “Everyone had a positive response.”

When the program started, there were some concerns the little libraries could become victims of vandalism and theft. That has not happened.

SNO officials have learned, however, that the three-year mark seems to be the point when many of the little libraries are in need of some sprucing up. Jones said volunteers have chipped in to help homeowners make those repairs.

And she said local Girl Scouts have partnered with Skillville for a major restoration of the little library near South Side school. Jones said students at the school have made that the most visited little library in the Tree Streets.

“It’s in a public place and gets heavy use,” he said.

Andrea Lowery, whose family serves as caretaker of a little library on Poplar Street, said she “loves” participating in the program. She said upkeep on the library has been minimal, with the most being a little fresh paint this spring. And she said keeping the library stocked with books hasn’t been much of a problem.

Lowery, a fourth-grade teacher at University School, said her colleagues are very helpful in donating books for her cause.

“We’ve never had to purchase books,” she said. “People have been good about dropping off donations.”

She said she regularly sees children from her neighborhood borrowing and returning books to the library. Lowery said her 4-year-old daughter, Leona, is also a big fan of the library.

Mariah Henley, who lives across from the little library on Poplar Street, said she, her husband and her 9-year-old daughter all make good use of the program.

“We go through a lot of books,” she said. “We love it.”

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