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Little Free Libraries open new chapter for bringing books to Oklahoma City neighborhoods

Little Free Libraries are getting used and bringing neighborhoods together in Oklahoma City, organizers say.
By Henry Dolive, For The Oklahoman Published: July 3, 2014

Emmah Hackbarth was so intrigued when she ran across online information about Little Free Libraries that she inquired about how to obtain one for her Jefferson Park neighborhood in Oklahoma City.

“I was just fascinated by this,” she said, sitting on her front porch where about two months ago she opened an officially chartered Little Free Library.

Her library is one of several Little Free Libraries now in place in Oklahoma City neighborhoods. The libraries are free-standing, handcrafted, water-resistant structures that contain books and other materials that people can borrow — without needing a library card — under the concept of “take a book, return a book.”

Some 18 months after the Little Free Library concept was introduced to Oklahoma City, libraries also have been installed in the Cleveland and Linwood Place neighborhoods and in the Plaza District, while several other neighborhoods have been paired with volunteer architects through the central Oklahoma chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Melissa Hunt, executive director of the architects association, said 13 neighborhoods have applied to have Little Free Libraries. Installation is pending in several neighborhoods.

“But the neighborhoods that have them are enjoying them,” she said.

Front porch reading

Hackbarth said she missed a permit deadline that would have allowed a library structure in her Historical Preservation neighborhood, and decided having the library on her front porch might make it easier to oversee.

“I thought, ‘I can put a sign in my yard, and I have this front porch,’” she said. “We have a lot of walkers in the neighborhood.”

Her library, a wicker shelf unit that she wasn’t using, is stocked with books, magazines, board games, community resource information and even some chalk for young visitors she said write thank-you notes to her on the concrete porch. Others have also donated materials for the library.

“Somebody came by the other day and dropped off a whole box of Harry Potter books,” she said.

The Jefferson Park library is unique in that it is an existing piece of furniture, not a free-standing structure, but Hackbarth said it earned a citation for creativity from Little Free Libraries.

Points of focus

The Little Free Library concept was developed three years ago by two Wisconsin men. The nonprofit they founded works to increase literacy and strengthen community ties.

Neighborhood Alliance of Central Oklahoma brought the idea to Oklahoma City last year.

Hunt said local architects were paired with neighborhoods to design a concept unique to that neighborhood. For $35, neighborhoods can apply to have a Little Free Library. They then are paired with an architect.

Barnes and Noble and Full Circle bookstores and the SHINE (Start Helping Impacted Neighborhoods Everywhere) program of Oklahoma County have assisted with the project.

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