Drury Class Joins Little Free Library Movement

Sep 2, 2014

Jo Van Arkel's CORE class posing with their work
Credit Drury University

“Take a book. Leave a book.” That’s the slogan for Little Free Library, a worldwide, community-building movement aimed at fostering a love of books and reading. Here in Springfield, one Drury University class has decided to dive headfirst into the movement by building its own. KSMU’s Julie Greene has more.

Little Free Library is essentially a library in a box. This box, placed at a specific location, allows individuals to stop by and pick up a free book. There’s no signing up or checking out. You just return the book when you’re finished or replace it with another if you decide to keep it.

After seeing various Little Free libraries pop up around the city, Drury University English professor Jo Van Arkel decided to create one with her freshman CORE class. Building the Little Free Library has enabled Van Arkel to share her love of reading with her students and get them more involved with the community life around Drury’s campus.

“Our hope is that it will be an exchange that not just the students in the Drury community will be contributing to the library but then the people in the neighborhood will start to take ownership of the library, and they’ll bring books, and they’ll put them in the library, and it will be something that is truly shared… I also think it can galvanize a neighborhood. It becomes, just, in its own little symbolic way a central focus for people to share and exchange ideas,” Van Arkel said.

Jo Van Arkel's CORE class building their Little Free Library
Credit Drury University

Most of these libraries are located outdoors, resembling that of a birdhouse or a large breadbox. It can store roughly 30 books. Once completed, Drury’s Little Free Library will be located on West Scott Street, near Pipkin Middle School, Central High School and St. Joseph Catholic Academy. 

Van Arkel notes that Little Free libraries, along with the emergence of e-books and the modernization of brick and mortar libraries, are changing the way in which we read and discover books.    

“This is sort of a celebration of all of the things a library can be, certainly not meant to replace the kind of experience we have when we go into a large library, but it’s a way of promoting reading, of giving people a sense of community, so I think it has a lot to offer neighborhoods and communities in that respect,” Van Arkel said.

Dr. Shurita Thomas-Tate has had a Little Free Library in her front yard since moving into her current home in Rountree two years ago.

“In the summertime, we get lots of kids coming by to check out books and see what’s in there. Lots of neighbors just walk by to see what’s in there or drop off books, so as a new resident in the neighborhood, it was a great way to meet everyone because I had lots of people coming in and out regularly and checking out the books and stopping to say hello. It’s just a good way to connect with the neighborhood,” Thomas-Tate said.

Little Free Library was started by Wisconsin natives Rick Brooks and Todd Bol in 2009. The duo’s original goal to build around 2,500 of these libraries was accomplished just three years later. Now, there are over 15,000 of these libraries around the world. After Van Arkel’s class finishes their library in mid to late October, it will mark nine such Little Free libraries in Springfield.