Good Luck

June 14th, 2021

little free libraryThis Little Free Library in Liberal has books ready for the taking for community members. Alpha Rho sorority member Luz Riggs said she was inspired to bring the project to Liberal after a visit to her sister in Georgia. Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


Literacy is highly important for everyone and for many, years, the Little Free Library program has helped many people with just that. 

“Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world. Through Little Free Library book exchanges, millions of books are exchanged each year, profoundly increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds,” the Little Free Library Web site noted. “Academically, children growing up in homes without books are on average three years behind children in homes with lots of books, even when controlled for other key factors. One of the most successful ways to improve the reading achievement of children is to increase their access to books, especially at home. But two out of three children living in poverty have no books to call their own. Little Free Library book-sharing boxes play an essential role by providing 24/7 access to books (and encouraging a love of reading!) in areas where books are scarce. At the Little Free Library nonprofit, we’re working to fill book deserts and place libraries where they can make a big impact through our Impact Library Program. We’ve donated more than 1,000 libraries through this program to date. Three out of four people report they’ve read a book they normally would not have read because of a Little Free Library, and 73 percent of people say they’ve met more neighbors because of a Little Free Library being in their neighborhood. Numbers also show 92 percent of people say their neighborhood feels like a friendlier place because of a Little Free Library being available to them.”

With Liberal Memorial Library currently closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic situation, the Alpha Ro sorority in Liberal has stepped up to put together a few Little Free Library locations throughout Liberal. Sorority member Luz Riggs said she got the idea for doing this project in Liberal during a past visit. 

“About two years ago I took a trip to visit my sister in Athens, Ga. and I noticed there were several neighborhoods in that community where these Free Little Libraries were set up and I thought they were really cool and a little while after I got back from that trip, I started wondering if that was something we could do for Liberal,” Riggs said. “So later on, after I talked to the rest of the Alpha Ro sorority about this idea, I got ahold of Earl Watt to ask him about doing this and where might be some good spots to put these up. I did some research about what all it would take to set one up and he gave me some ideas of where we could put them throughout Liberal. And with Liberal Memorial Library being closed right now because of the virus, we want these to be available with books for people, and we also made sure to put them in spots that were easily accessible – many people aren't wanting to drive their children places now because of everything going on with the virus, and people also can't get around the community by bus since that's also closed right now. And this is especially great for children because so many of them go to the library every day to find something to read, but they're unable to do that now, so we also wanted to have a steady stream of reading materials for them during this time.” 

Ultimately, the sorority decided to put up Little Free Libraries at the new Liberal Recreation Center at 950 S. Grant Ave., South Church of God at 635 S. Washington, and Rine’s American Freestyle Karate at 2010 S. Holly Drive. Putting everything together, Riggs said, was a relatively issue-free process.

“We’d contacted Mr. Rine about putting one near his facility and he was enthusiastic about it and said yes, and so was everyone about the other spots,” Riggs said. “We also had to as Earl about the possibility of taking possession of some of the old newspaper dispensers so we could use them for this, and he was happy to help with that. So right now it's those three locations and we're tentatively making plans to have a fourth one available in the near future.”

The layout of Liberal and accessibility, Riggs said, were what made her think Liberal would be the perfect community for Little Free Library stands. 

“Accessibility was a big factor, and there are a lot of places throughout Liberal where we could put these up that don't have easy access to the main library in town,” Riggs said. “I thought it would be great if we could do something for people who can't go to the library but still want to get books and read materials for free. This way they'll still have access to reading materials and things to keep them occupied until they can actually find a way to get to Liberal Memorial Library. The main idea is for people to have something to read, especially now with the COVID-19 situation going on, and especially with the library being closed during this time, we want to provide materials for people to read and keep them occupied. The main thing is it's available to everyone in the community, and it's free to everyone, there are no major strings attached with this. So if anyone is looking for something to read during this time, this is a great way to find new books and materials to read. Also reading is such a great activity and there are so many benefits to people who frequently read, and we want to help promote literacy.”

Riggs added people are welcome to make donations to the stands in the community. 

“The policy with these is typically 'Take One, Leave One,' and people are welcome to do that. And that's a good way to do that because not only will there be a revolving door of materials for people to take, people can also keep the books as long as they need to without worrying about fines or things like that,” Riggs said. “And I will emphasize children's books and books for adults will be accepted for this so it's available for everyone in town, the main thing is to promote literacy. We're very excited about the accessibility and having these books available for people who can't get to books easily, and this is also a great way to get exposed to so many different genres and materials. Especially for children this is a great way to get them started reading, which is such a great life skill for everyone.”

Though the program is just getting started, Riggs said she hopes to see a lot of growth and more Little Free Library stands in Liberal in the future. 

“We are working on putting together one of the stands for a fourth location here in town, which we're excited about. Overall, we're just looking forward to seeing this program grow throughout the community and during this time we hope to see a lot of books being exchanged,” Riggs said. “We definitely want to see it grow, we might put a stand in some of the parks, maybe one by one of the elementary schools in town, it's something we're still talking about and we want to have this available in basically all parts of town. This is sponsored by the Alpha Ro sorority in town, and we're using the Ken Hay Memorial Fund to provide some of the books for this – we've provided some and purchased some of our own, but we are also using that memorial fund to help get even more books for this program. We're very happy and excited to be starting this in Liberal and we can't wait to see how it grows as time goes on.”

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