At the January Friends of the Covington County Library meeting, Lynn Broom, Collins Elementary School librarian, shared some literacy programs she was interested in beginning here to help boost students’ interest in books and reading. One of the ideas she mentioned was Little Free Libraries (LFLs), a book exchange program that was started in May 2009. This method of sharing books in neighborhoods has become a huge, global movement. After the January meeting, Friends member Lane McLoud researched LFLs and found a website full of great stories and information. She also learned about a book written in 2015 and ordered it online. The book and website have great photos and ideas telling about the mission of repurposing unwanted books and saving them from the landfill. A LFL makes books accessible to children and students at all times in many locations. Todd Bol built the first LFL for his Hudson, Wisconsin, front yard in 2009 as a tribute to his mother, a former teacher and lifelong reader. Today, that single, small idea of “free books” has grown into a cultural phenomenon: there are more than 85,000 LFLs worldwide – in all 50 states and more than 90 countries, with dozens more established each week. Last year alone, 11,210 people started a LFL. As LFLs celebrate their 10th anniversary this May, more than 120 million books have been shared and thousands of neighbors have connected! The concept is simple: a LFL is a box of books, placed in an accessible spot, often a yard near a sidewalk. Everyone who passes is welcome to stop and browse the books inside. The book exchange runs on a “take a book, return a book” honor system. The inventory changes constantly, and something is offered for every reader from picture books to long novels. LFLs promote literacy and a love of reading. They also spark a feeling of community—sort of a neighborhood watercooler—an informal meeting place. Some LFLs offer a seed-sharing program and some LFLs have dog treats available. In May of 2012, LFL was established as an official nonprofit organization. Since then, things have exploded! LFLs have been featured on NBC Nightly News, in USA Today and on National Public Radio. LFLs are a full-fledged global movement and the world’s largest book-sharing movement. There are LFLs in Ukraine, Honduras, Iceland, Pakistan, China, Italy, Ghana, Japan, India, Australia, the Netherlands and Korea. They are in big cities like New York and Los Angeles as well as the smallest towns of Iowa and Idaho, in parks, hospital waiting rooms and front yards. According to the global map, Mississippi has about 180 LFLs. To participate in the LFLs organization, each library is registered at a cost of $40 and assigned a unique charter number that allows for listing on the official world map on the website. This map offers a catalog of exact locations so that one can find a LFL when he or she is on the road travelling or on vacation or even locate one they’d love to visit someday. “Stewards” are the caretakers of LFLs, the ones who stock and maintain it. Each LFL has a steward or team of stewards. Stewards play an important and active part in this rapidly growing movement. After Lane shared the LFL book and the information from the website with Lynn Broom and other Friends officers, it was agreed that this was something the group could do in Covington County to promote literacy. The LFL website offers building kits for sale. The prices start at $200 and go into the $400s which made that route impractical for the Friends group so they looked at other possibilities. The website and book encourage repurposing and upcycling of materials to build LFLs. People have used old suitcases, vintage metal breadboxes, dorm-size refrigerators, hollow trees and other unique items. The idea of repurposing an old newspaper vending machine is suggested in the book. In early February, Lane contacted a Hattiesburg newspaper office, and they donated three boxes. After sanding and painting, the Friends placed one at Hopewell Elementary and one on Main Street in Collins. The third will be placed at Collins Elementary. The News-Commercial has donated four more newspaper boxes, and students at the Covington County Career and Technical Education Complex are painting them. The Friends plan to put two LFLs in Mount Olive and two in Seminary and make this a county-wide program. A huge donation of books was received from The Mission Store in Collins so that there are books for all ages to start the LFLs. Book donations will be needed to keep this going in the future in case more books go out than come in. Books may be donated at the three public libraries in Mt. Olive, Collins and Seminary. The cost of charter signs for the first three LFLs was paid by the Friends. The Collins Rotary Club made a very generous donation to cover the charters for the next LFLs. To emphasize how fast LFLs are growing, the first three charter numbers were ordered on March 10 and have the numbers 85389, 85390 and 85391. The second order placed on March 20 has numbers 85916 to 85920. That’s an addition of more than 500 LFLs in 10 days! Little Free Libraries are all about building community, sparking creativity, and inspiring readers As LFLs celebrate 10 years this May, read the words of founder Tod Bol who stated, “I really believe in a LFL on every block and a book in every hand. I believe people can fix their neighborhoods, fix their communities, develop systems of sharing, learn from each other, and see that they have a better place on this planet to live.” The website is www.littlefreelibraries.org for more information.