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Sounds of hammering and electric drills, alongside cheers of “we did it!” echoed outside of Harrington Library last month as Plano Family Literacy School conducted a service learning project in conjunction with their Toyota Family Learning partnership. Families and volunteers built 16 Little Free Libraries to foster book exchanges, promote literacy and bring neighbors together through the love of reading.

little free libraries

The cross-generational, diverse and festive event was part of Little Free Library founder Todd H. Bol’s “Across America: Texas Tour.” Bol traveled to Houston, San Antonio, Austin and last but not least, Plano, which was their largest event.

“Little Free Library founders and partners joined forces with Texas Center for the Book to host workshops like this in four cities across Texas, each one having its own flavor,” said Rebekah Manley, representing Texas Center for the Book, along with Stephen Siwinski. “We contacted Cathy Ziegler, Director of Libraries, to see if we could do a literacy workshop in Plano, and within hours, Plano Family Literacy called and said they wanted to set up a Little Free Library.”

“It was so meant to be!” interjected Marla Robison of Plano Family Literacy School. “We work with about 50 low-income families and they wanted to do this as part of their service learning project. The whole concept of ‘Give a book. Take a book’ is wonderful.”

“This effort is the perfect partnership that’s fun and also says to the community, ‘We are here and proud of our neighborhoods!’” said coordinator Jane Lilliston, also of Plano Family Literacy.

Ziegler added, “Our goal is to make Plano a better place to live. I’m very pleased that the Plano Public Library System was able to connect PISD’s Plano Family Literacy with the Texas State Library, resulting in free build kits for the service project. We enjoyed hosting these families whom we serve daily.”

Plano Family Literacy does two main projects a year, a food drive and a service learning project. Students go to school five days a week, 20 hours a week, to learn English, and as far as this project, they will have to get approval from homeowners, parks, homeowner associations and others with the goal to spread the libraries all across Plano. “Our families are so grateful to be apart of something like this where they can give back to their community.” Robison enthused, “I just can’t wait to get the books inside!”

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Today, Little Free Libraries are a full-fledged global movement. There are over 36,000 book exchanges—one in every U.S. state and Canadian province, plus 70 other countries around the world. They are in the Ukraine, Honduras, Iceland, Pakistan, China, Italy, Ghana, Japan, India, Australia, Netherlands and Korea. Besides Plano, in the US, you can find them in big cities like New York and Los Angeles, as well as the small towns of Iowa and Idaho. They’re planted in parks, cafes, hospital waiting rooms and in front yards.

There are more than 400 library stewards in Texas. A steward is a person or organization who registers and oversees a Little Free Library. About 60% of Little Free Library book exchanges have been built by stewards and 40% have been purchased directly from Little Free Library. Little Free Library is funded primarily by revenue from the purchase and registration of book exchanges. Donations from individuals and organizations are also encouraged.

Texas Center for the Book is under the direction of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and is a nonprofit organization that stimulates public interest in books, reading and libraries. Manley said, “We all have the same mission—literacy. Plano Family Literacy has an amazing vision investing in the community. They’re going to become the stewards of these Little Free Libraries.”

And there will be no late fees, library cards or hours of operation. Only a little friendly door leading to a mysterious book inside. You’ll never know what you’ll find.

How it all began…
In 2009, Todd H. Bol built the first Little Free Library and placed it in his front yard in Hudson, Wisconsin, as a tribute to his mother, a former teacher and lifelong reader. People would come by and hug it because they felt so moved by his gesture. The idea for the book exchanges with the motto “take a book, leave a book” took hold quickly. Little Free Library hopes to deepen its impact by growing to 100,000 libraries worldwide by the end of 2017.

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Brit Mott

Brit is a Leadership Plano Class 25 graduate and Leadership Frisco Class 10 graduate. She received her Master’s in Journalism from the University of North Texas and her Bachelor’s in Mass Communication...