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Little Free Libraries finding plenty of readers

The Little Free Library in Rollie Hanson’s yard — 2002 10th St. SW — has been busy since he put it up about two years ago.

“It’s stayed sort of steady through November and December, then died off a little in January, and now it’s wild and going again,” Hanson said.

The little libraries resemble a blend of birdhouse and mailbox. They typically feature an assortment of books for people of all ages that anyone can borrow and return. Gretchen Erickson; her husband, Ted Hinchcliffe; and their children put up the first little free library in Austin at 900 Fourth St. SW near Skinner’s Hill in 2013.

Positive feedback to that library inspired Vision 2020’s Community Pride and Spirit Committee, the Austin Public Library and Habitat for Humanity to hold a community meeting on the little library concept in 2013.

Hanson offered the books to try to get people interested in reading, but also in hopes to keep children away from bad habits such as alcohol and drugs. Many people have donated books to his library, and he tries to keep both adult and children’s books available.

“I have a bench right there so they can sit and read,” he said. “Yeah, it’s fun.”

One of the Little Free Libraries located at Banfield Elementary School. Photo provided

One of the Little Free Libraries located at Banfield Elementary School. Photo provided

The Austin Rotary Club partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build and install four little free libraries at the Austin Public Schools’ elementary schools: Banfield, Neveln, Southgate and Sumner. School organizers hoped to encourage students to read more and wanted to offer an alternative to the library if it was closed when students want to get books.

The Austin school libraries start with 90 books appropriate for babies through adults. People are encouraged to bring a book with them to exchange when picking out books.

For Hanson, the project has been something he is very proud of.

“I call it a complete success on something I’ve done,” he said.

He said not only has it encouraged people to read, but it’s also a conversation starter for people passing by. He built his library himself in the shape of an old-time schoolhouse, adding his own siding and a bell on the top. He hopes to put up a sign saying, “Read a book, ring the bell.”

“This is my second year that it’s been there, and I hope it’s still there when I’m gone,” Hanson said. “I’m very proud of it.”

For more, visit www.littlefreelibrary.org.