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Community library boxes sprouting in Chattanooga

The Little Free Library lets readers take a book and leave a book.
By Beverly A. Carroll

Looking for a quick way to turn all those books lying around the house into new reads for little effort and no cost.
Forget trading them in at the nearest used book seller or swapping them at neighborhood yard sales. Watch for one of the four house like boxes mounted on poles around the Chattanooga area. At first glance one might take them for bird houses but a second look shows they are much too big, too low and too open to house Cardinals, Blue Jays or Mockingbirds.

For the eagle-eyed who spot them they are the "take a book and leave a book" Little Free Library. The selection may be limited but you don’t need a library card or end up feeling like you are overpaying for tattered paperbacks and worn hardbacks.
“It’s almost not worth it go to McKay’s (Used Books, CDs, Movies and more) anymore,” said Soddy-Daisy resident Mark Haskins. “Used to you could resell your books and get a decent return to buy more. Now they hardly give you anything for your books and the books they sell are about 50 percent of what they retailed for. It’s not worth it to go anymore.”

While the attractive mini book repositories may not be an equal option to public libraries or used bookstores they do offer an immediate read that could expand the user’s world (or not) while providing her or him the chance to be part of a larger mission.
Based on the honor system the Little Free Library got its start in 2009 when Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, handmade a one-room school house model in memory of his mother, a former school teacher who loved reading, according to the Little Free Library website. He mounted it to a post in his front yard and filled it with books and posted a sign - "FREE BOOKS." A few neighbors wanted their own boxes so Bol built more of the “book houses,” and gave them away. Each mini library carried the same sign - "FREE BOOKS."

Rick Brooks, with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, discovered Bol’s project and the two men saw a chance to achieve the goals of promoting literacy while building community and the rest – as they say – was history.
In addition to their mission of building community through literacy their goal was to build 2,510 Little Free Libraries, which they met August 2012, less than two years of the target date, according to the website.

By January 2014 the non-profit organization had registered an estimated 15,000 units worldwide with more under construction.
There are more than 50 sites in Tennessee with at least four in Chattanooga, according to the site map on the Little Free Library website. Two are in the North Chattanooga area, one in Murray Hills off Highway 58 and the last one is in the East Brainerd area. For exact locations visit the website at
The website offers patterns to build different models and instructions on how to gain official status as a Little Free Library.

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