Mt. Vernon celebrates new Little Free Library

Community encouraging exchange of free books

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Duane Eash’s newly constructed Little Free Library stood empty as community members gathered in front of his home in Mount Vernon, but it would be filled with books by the end of the day.

On Sunday, people around the area gathered for a block party on Third Avenue NW to exchange books, listen to live music, share poetry and enjoy free food.

“Literally, this will be full of books,” said Chris Goodwin, who pointed to a freshly painted wooden box at the end of Eash’s sidewalk. The box, which on first glance might be mistaken for a large birdhouse or mailbox, has a clear front door so passers-by can see what’s inside. On the top are the words “Little Free Library” and those interested are asked to take a book or return one, with no strings or money attached to the exchange.

“I was just so entranced with the idea. It’s so simple and so wonderful,” said Goodwin, who was the first person to install a Little Free Library of her own in the Mount Vernon community around a year and a half ago. “It’s really taken off.”

Two poets, Amy Tingle and Maya Stein, were welcomed at the block party, but arrived in a manner much different from many of the other guests. The two are on a 1400 mile tandem bike ride from Boulder, CO to Beloit, WI, sharing their poetry and helping to build Little Free Libraries across the Midwest.

“It’s an invitation to create more of a community,” said Stein, who raised around $30,000 with Tingle via Kickstarter to build more of the libraries that allow individuals to openly share various types of literature.

Tingle said that riding the tandem bike has allowed the two to spend time eating and shopping locally in the communities they visit, an experience she said they wouldn’t have had if they flew through a town in a car. Those gathered at the event were able to give the poets one word, which they promised to turn into two separate poems.

The Little Free Library mission is to foster a community, as well as encourage literacy and reading practices. Anyone interested in a book they see in a Little Free Library may take it, but are encouraged to either leave a book in the box then or at another time. Goodwin explained that her own library has held between 40 and 60 books at times, with the numbers continually fluctuating.

“It’s pretty neat,” said Eash of his own new Little Free Library, the second one in Mount Vernon. “There’s more community, getting to see everybody come by.”

Goodwin may have been the first in the area to have a Little Free Library, but there are thousands across the country. There are also plans for more to pop up in the Mount Vernon area, including one with a fairy theme at the home of Kim Wolfe.

Wolfe hopes to make her Little Free Library children friendly and invite local school children with their teachers to visit the library and learn what they are used for so the kids always know where to find a book.

Stein and Tingle will head to Dyersville and Dubuque after their stop in Mount Vernon. Kits for the Little Free Libraries can be bought, but can also be built from scratch with any theme.

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