JOPLIN, Mo. —
In the shade of the Community of Christ church sign sits Joplin’s newest library — a doll-house-sized structure, complete with shingled roof and Plexiglass door — with nearly a dozen neatly stacked books inside: romance novels, a mystery/thriller and a pristine edition of “Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul.”
The concept behind Joplin’s first Little Free Library is quite simple, said Joplin resident Terry McDermid, who acts as the library’s steward. “If you see a book you want to read, take it ... and share it with others.”
Here’s how it works. You set up a small box, looking something like a bird house or child’s doll house, atop a post. Fill that decorated box (with hinged door) with a dozen or so books. Tell friends and neighbors about the box and books. Stop by again and see what books have been grabbed for a read and what new ones have been added by others. Thumb through the stack and select a book you haven’t read yet. It’s really that easy.
“We were No. 1308, but I believe they’re getting close to 2,000 libraries now worldwide,” McDermid said of the little libraries.
The goal, she said, is to have more of the tiny libraries built than the 2,509 Carnegie libraries constructed by the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in the United States and around the world throughout the early 1900s.
Carnegie was passionate about books, libraries and free access to literature when he donated the money to have the libraries built. That same passion for books and knowledge is what’s fueling the construction of the little libraries all across American and around the world, McDermid said.
“We’re hoping that we’re just the first of what will be many (established) in Joplin,” she said.
Because the 1212 Goetz Blvd. library is the city’s first little library, the book titles are wide ranging. But if more libraries pop up in the future, they can focus on specific subjects.
“That’s what I see,” McDermid said. “This corner can have mystery (books), this corner will be fantasy (books).” She even spoke about one little library in another state located at a dog park, with books centered around animals and pets. The sky’s the limit to what the themes can be, she said.
“We just want people to know it’s OK to (open up the library’s door) and look and take,” she said with a chuckle. Though it may feel like it, you are not stealing from the church. “If you’re walking and you see a book you want, take it, and then the next time you come back, put a new book in there” or put the old book back inside.
Joplin’s library was built and donated by inmates at the Prairie Du Chien Correctional Institution in Wisconsin. It was a gift by the inmates to the residents of Joplin following the May 22, 2011, tornado, McDermid said.
“We’re excited to have the library in our neighborhood. In the past year, we’ve had families move in who had lost their homes in the tornado. The library can be a way for us to meet our new neighbors.
“I’ve read stories about people who have put it up and they’ve ended up meeting more neighbors with the books than they had for years previously.”
Other Missouri locations with little free libraries are Ballwin, Blue Springs, Marshall, Tecumseh and University City.
The closest little library to Joplin is located just across the Kansas border in Baxter Springs — No. 891. There are five little libraries located in Fayetteville, Ark. There are no libraries in the state of Oklahoma.
Established in 2009
Little Free Library was established by two men, Todd Bol and Rick Brooks, in 2009. The two men “shared a commitment to service and the quality of community life around the world,” according to www.littlefreelibrary.org.