Little Free Libraries: promoting literacy and spreading smiles

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EAU CLAIRE (WEAU) - They are popping up around Eau Claire: small wooden houses full of reading treasures.

They are Little Free Libraries.

Todd Bol of Hudson first came up with the idea. He says he built one for his yard about 18 months ago in honor of his mom who passed away about 10 years ago.

After a number of people commented on his Little Free Library he shared the idea with his friend Rick Brooks in Madison. From there, the two have watched Little Free Libraries spread across the country.

Right now there is one in Boyd Park in Eau Claire and downtown on S. Farwell Street. Lynn and Bill Jaskowiak also got one for their front yard near Northstar Middle School.

Bol says Little Free Libraries are about paying it forward. People can take a book and return a book when they can. Who knows the places the reading materials will go?

Inside Little Free Libraries are stories and pictures that will take you all over the world.

"There are kid’s books. There are cookbooks. There are adult fiction novels. There's a little bit of everything in there," Lynn Jaskowiak said about her Little Free Library.

Plus, they’re free. You're just asked to pay it forward and share books you love.

"It's wonderful to have this in the neighborhood. It's been fun. We've had people stop by and say how does it work?" Lynn Jaskowiak said.

The Jaskowiak’s say they wanted to help build literacy in their neighborhood after hearing of Todd Bol's invention.

"It's more of a community thing where people we wouldn't know otherwise are stopping to talk to us," Bill Jaskowiak said.

You'll find another one on South Farwell Street in downtown Eau Claire. It was donated to Literacy Volunteers of the Chippewa Valley.

"People bring a book and then they take a book and they can share books and it should go on forever so it's really fun," Executive Director of Literacy Volunteers of the Chippewa Valley Mary Beth Kelley-Lowe explained.

They are tiny treasure chests full of reading gold for all ages.

"There's a coffee table book in there about Harley Davidson and there's a few mysteries so you never know what you're going to find," Kelley-Lowe said.

"Maybe I'm just a book geek, but I think it's wonderful," Lynn Jaskowiak said with a smile.

Bol told us over the phone there are about 80-90 Little Free Libraries and 120-130 are built. The Little Free Library that sits in Boyd Park was built by his son Austin who lives in Eau Claire.

“It seems to capture the imagination and the sense of community and a sense of, you know, actually reaching out,” Bol said over the phone.

He says he has hopes for more little libraries along the beautiful trails in Eau Claire. He says those would be Community Galleries where panels on the roof are removable and can have different artwork on them.

“The idea with it is you can take the panel off and you can put another panel on. So you can in turn have ongoing continual art and changing of art and supporting different things like literacy, health or environment,” he explained.

Bol says he’d love to have a series of those on Eau Claire’s bike trails and in parks. He already has an Eau Claire artist working on an artistic panel. Bol told us over the phone he hopes to plant the seed on that plan in the next month or so.

The Jaskowiak’s also have plans to help Little Free Libraries spread. Lynn says she’d like to have someone sponsor a Little Free Library for the Maple Plain Ojibwa Reservation in Cumberland where some of her family lives. She’d like to fill that one with health care information and other books.

For more information on Little Free Libraries: clickhere

“We’ve gotten great support and great enthusiasm from people and they love them! People just tell us they’re giddy,” Bol said.

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