Take a book. Return a book. It’s a simple concept that the La Porte City Lions Club has brought to local neighborhoods in La Porte City and beyond with the help of Hawkins Memorial Library. Last week, the Lions Club put the finishing touches on the installation of eight Little Free Libraries, seven in neighborhoods throughout La Porte City and an eighth at Hickory Hills Park. The group hopes to add another at McFarlane Park, once it has been constructed.

Little Free Libraries operate on the simple premise of take a book, return a book. While they come in many different shapes and sizes, anyone in the community can participate in this free book exchange. Each little library has its own unique, personal touch, as people are encouraged to share their favorite books with others in the community. If you take a book, you do not have to return that exact same book. Little Library book exchanges function on the honor system; everyone contributes to ensure there are always quality books inside.

The Little Free Library movement dates back to 2009 when Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin built a model of a small, one room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, who was a teacher that loved to read. He filled the small schoolhouse with books and placed it on a post in his front yard. The enthusiastic feedback he received from friends and neighbors encouraged him to build and give away several more.

Working with Rick Brooks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the concept of Little Free Libraries was inspired by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who set a goal to fund the creation of 2,508 free public libraries across the English-speaking world by the year 1900. Likewise, Bol and Brooks had hoped to install 2,508 Little Free Libraries by the end of 2013, a goal they surpassed 16 months early in August 2012. Today, there are more than 50,000 registered Little Free Libraries throughout the world.

The La Porte City Lions have long been strong advocates for reading, sponsoring quarterly drawings at La Porte City Elementary School where students can win $20. The more books they read, the greater chance they have of winning. A year ago, the Lions approached the City Council to propose the installation of several Little Free Libraries throughout the community. After receiving the Council’s support and the commitment from Hawkins Memorial Library Director Jolene Kronschnabel to help stock them, work began on the construction of several little libraries, which must be stout enough to stand up to the extremes of Iowa weather. The project’s completion came just in time for the summer season.

Now that the libraries are installed, the Lions are in the process of registering them. Once the official charter has been received, the La Porte City little library locations can be added to the world map readers can search online at littlefreelibrary.org.
So take a book, return a book or donate a book. Thanks to the collaborative public service project sponsored by the La Porte City Lions Club and Hawkins Memorial Library, there’s a Little Free Library near you in the La Porte City community.

As a community effort, the Lions Club and Hawkins Memorial Library remind area residents their help is needed to preserve and maintain the local Little Free Libraries. Sadly, one library was vandalized just days after its installation. Anyone witnessing the damage or destruction of these community libraries is asked to notify the La Porte City Police Department.