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Free Books for the Fox

Little Free Libraries, which can be found throughout the Fox Cities, are wooden buildings designed for the sheer purpose of free book exchanges…

Walking the residential streets of the Fox Valley you might come across a peculiar, petite structure, adorned in a vibrant, eye-catching aesthetic, quaintly nestled on a front lawn. These are Little Free Libraries, wooden buildings no bigger than a breadbox designed to the specifications of its creator for the sheer purpose of free book exchanges.

From striking patterns and bold colors they range in shapes and styles, but typically the libraries are prototyped after an old schoolhouse. Little Free Libraries continue to crop up in various countries around the world from India and Ghana to Pakistan and Turkey, but started from humble beginnings in our very own Badger State.
Launching in Hudson, Wisconsin in 2009 the freestanding miniature book borrowing buildings are quickly picking up steam with more than 4,000 nationwide, 700 in Wisconsin and show the makings of a strong following in the Fox Cities area. Currently there are 15 Little Free Libraries in the Fox Valley area including locations on the 300 block of Kraft Street in Neenah and the front of Appleton Central High School.

With patrons able to pick up and exchange books for free, the Little Free Libraries act as a quirky and contagious way to promote literacy, an idea that Appleton Central High School Principal Katherine Crowley Peckham endorses.

“I first saw them when two of my sisters installed them in their yards in Wauwatosa,” she says. “I thought this would be a great way to send the message on the importance of reading.”

Little Free Libraries aren’t meant to overthrow traditional libraries already established in the community, but rather supplement them by sharing the same values and ideals that reading should be accessible to everyone.

“We have filled our library with books donated from around the school district,” Crowley Peckham says. “At Central we recognize that many of our neighbors and students may not be able to afford to purchase books. While we have an outstanding public library that is close to our school, the Little Free Library allows anyone to ‘own’ a book.”

Little Free Libraries represent strong values of education and literacy and without the support of the community to help share the experience, these structures would struggle to flourish the way they have.

“The donations have assisted us in keeping the library stocked,” Crowley Peckman says. “We love to see students peeking into the library and excited about the new book they have received.”

To find a Little Free Library near you visit their website at LittleFreeLibrary.org or keep your eyes peeled in your own neighborhood.

—By Andrew Scholz

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