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.”