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'Little Free Library' program comes to Bellaire

The Antrim Review of Bellaire, Michigan

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BELLAIRE — Since 2009, when a Wisconsin man built a little "library" in front of his home to honor his late mother, a longtime educator who loved books, copycats inspired by his example have created thousands of "Little Free Libraries" all over the United States and beyond.

Thanks to Fred and Martha Harris, the Little Free Library program has now arrived in Antrim County, specifically South Genessee Street in Bellaire.

"Our grandchildren, Thomas and Elizabeth Harris, built it with some help from their other grandfather, as Thomas is only 5 years old and Elizabeth is only 3," said Martha Harris last week, as she pointed to what appeared to be a cabinet on a post in her front yard filled with a variety of books.

"They built it for our 45th wedding anniversary (last month)," she added.

Her husband, Fred, explained that the concept of the Little Library program is pretty simple.

"Take a book, return a book — where neighbors can share their favorite literature and stories," he said. "Anyone can stop by and take advantage of our Little Free Library; we just ask that they return with a book to replace the book they borrowed."

Thomas and Elizabeth live in Ann Arbor in southeastern Michigan, where the Little Free Library program has taken a strong hold, his wife noted.

"They know I'm active with the library here in Bellaire and that we're both big fans of reading, so they thought we'd like to have a Little Free Library like the one they use at home," said Martha.

Grandpa Harris had finished installing the cabinet painted in bright green Michigan State Spartan colors with his grandchildren's custom finger painting earlier in the week.

"On the hottest day of the year so far, I'm out here in the 90-degree heat digging a big hole in the ground, which had to be at least a couple of feet deep to stabilize the post and keep the Library standing even after the snow plow has gone through and thrown a wall of snow at it in the winter time," he said with a laugh. "And enough of that post had to be above the ground to keep the Library above the snow levels we get in the winter. It was pretty hard to think about winter when it was 90 degrees in the shade!"

Although Little Free Libraries can be constructed using any feasible material as long as it will hold a dozen or more books safely — and prevent moisture from reaching the books-many are built using recycled materials, the longtime Bellaire residents noted.

"For instance, ours was made from an old cabinet that nobody wanted anymore," Fred said. "Using other scraps of construction materials and odds and ends that were laying around, and that nice bright green paint, the kids and their grandfather did a great job, we think. We were proud to put it in our front yard."

The Harris's stocked their library with books primarily of interest to adults, he noted. "We don't have a lot of children in this neighborhood, so you'll find several novels, some non-fiction, some history and a little science fiction."

"But there are a couple of children's books in there," his wife added.

For now, the books in the cabinet that the couple has provided come from their home library.

"Like a lot of people, we have too many books here at home that are just sitting there gathering dust, but once we get our Little Library registered with the national program, we'll be able to buy books at a discount," said Martha. "We will also get a plaque noting our membership in the national Little Free Library program.

"We're hoping other people will see our Little Free Library and take advantage of it, and that people from other neighborhoods in Antrim County will build one for their front yard," she added. "The Little Free Library is perfect for rural, fairly remote areas like we have a lot of in Antrim County where a real library may be miles away.

"And we want to do everything we can to promote reading and literacy," she added. "So come, borrow a book and take it home."

For more information on the Little Free Library program, and plans for building the libraries, go to littlefreeli-brary.org.



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Original Publication Date: August 13, 2015



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