The recently-installed lending library, located outside Udder Side. Josephine von Dohlen | Col­legian

In an effort to promote lit­eracy, Hillsdale County opened a free lending library in Jonesville this month.

The first of its kind, the instal­lation is part of a dis­trict-wide ini­tiative to build com­munity while encour­aging reading.

Stacey Ansel, lit­eracy spe­cialist at the Hillsdale County Inter­me­diate School Dis­trict, decided to bring the movement to Hilsdale after learning about Little Free Library at a con­ference. She said she hopes to make reading more readily available throughout the county.

Little Free Library is a worldwide orga­ni­zation com­mitted to the spread of miniature libraries that encourage com­munity building and promote reading by having a com­munity book exchange where com­munity members drop off and pick up books at their leisure.

“There are over 40,000 little libraries in around 70 coun­tries,” Ansel said. “There is research behind bringing books into the home and the level of edu­cation that is attained. I want to bring more access to quality books across the county.”

The lending library is held at Udder Side, an ice cream and burger shop in Jonesville at the corner of the bike trail and US 12. Inside the teal box, a variety of books are available for com­munity members to take and read, as well as space for them to drop off books they would like to share. Also held inside is a journal where people can write in com­ments or things they would like to share with others who stop by the library.

“I envision children and adults being able to take and return books that provide com­munity, as well as skills and cre­ativity devel­opment,” Ansel said.

The box was donated by the Hillsdale Inter­me­diate School Dis­trict and was made in a com­munity effort as Ansel and a family member, as well as com­munity vol­un­teers, made the box them­selves.

Udder Side will host the grand opening of the Little Free Library on Thursday, Sept. 22 from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. Children in atten­dance will receive a free book, have the oppor­tunity to build a free bookmark, and receive a free kid sized cone. All are encouraged and welcome to attend.

“We are pro­moting wellness lit­eracy,” Ansel said. “The Hillsdale Public Library will provide some sto­ry­telling, there will be bookmark making, and Great Start Readiness Program will be hosting their preschool family night.”

Julia Bauer, owner of Udder Side, said they hope the location of the Little Free Library will foster a com­munity in support of reading pro­motion.

“We love reading, so we are hoping that others will too,” Bauer said.

Gisele Sutton, the children’s librarian at the Jonesville Dis­trict Library, sup­ports the arrival of the mini library.

“We, the Jonesville Dis­trict Library, would like to encourage any lit­erary efforts,” Sutton said.

This is only the beginning of a county-wide movement. A second Little Free Library was installed at the Hillsdale Health and Wellness Center on 12 E. Bacon St. this past Monday, Sept. 19.

“I am hoping for great success,” Ansel said. “In the future, there will perhaps be more little libraries in Hillsdale.”