The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

August 11, 2013

Little libraries cater to readers within neighborhoods

JOPLIN, Mo. — Daria Claiborne is an accountant by profession, a potter by hobby and a librarian 24/7.

Her Little Free Library at 3402 Finley Ave. in Joplin is one of 10,000 such libraries around the world, part of a growing movement that began in 2010 with just one.

Such libraries — boxes, really — can be placed in front of private homes, in front of businesses or in a public place. The idea is for a passers-by to take a book and leave a book.

“I’ve been around the corner when people have walked by and seen it and exclaimed how neat it is, which makes me feel good,” Claiborne said of hers.

“I don’t care if people don’t have a book to leave — if they just take one, it’s OK. I have plenty more.”

The movement began with Todd Bol, a hobby carpenter who mounted a wooden box designed to look like a one-room schoolhouse on a post in front of his home in Hudson, Wis.

“I built it as a library to honor my mom, who had a wonderful, great spirit,” Bol said. “I felt it would be great for the neighborhood. People were just delighted by it as they walked by.”

He approached Rick Brooks, a longtime supporter of literacy, social empowerment, youth and community development who worked in the Division of Continuing Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Brooks got on board.

The project quickly took off with a life of its own that Bol never imagined. Today there are Little Free Libraries across the United States and around the world, including the Netherlands, Italy and Ghana.

In this area, there also is a library at the Community of Christ church, 1212 Goetz Blvd. in Joplin, under the stewardship of Terry McDermid.

Bol’s group donated it to the city of Joplin after the 2011 tornado, but it needed to be placed under the care of a nonprofit organization.

“We’ve had neighbors stop by and use it when the weather is nice,” McDermid said. “Our church people stop by and trade books. One of them helps me keep track and make sure the books are appropriate for all age levels — we have a bus stop near there and want to respect the kids that might check for a book.”

There’s also a library in front of a private residence at 1506 Chouteau Ave. in Baxter Springs, Kan. — a two-story, red Victorian home after which the small library is modeled.

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