City Transformation, Creativity

Detroit’s ‘Little Free Library’ campaign hopes to spread its good words across the city

Berkley library

Detroit, get ready for a reading revolution – the kind that brings neighbors together, puts the city on the map for literacy and shows off our brainy muscles.

Koz libraryAs you travel across the city in the weeks to come, you’re going to see these little boxes full of books starting to pop up across Detroit. It is the work of Detroit Little Free Libraries, a campaign to bring this unique project to Detroit in a big way. Organizers want to make Detroit the “Little Free Library” capital of the world with 313 installations across the city.

Founder Todd Bol was in town this week for a bunch of ceremonial digs and installations of the first of 20 Little Free Libraries; the first ones showed up in places such as Boston Edison, Palmer Park and North Rosedale Park in Detroit. Today, he and local organizers will be putting more in the ground at 1:30 today at the Ruth Ellis Drop-In center in Highland Park and another in Corktown.

A Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by to “take a book” or “leave a book” to share. LFL are designed to promote literacy and the love of reading, while also building a sense of community. According to organizers, a movement that started with one library in honor of Bol’s mother in Wisconsin has grown to 20,000 Little Free Libraries in places “as far flung as Antarctica and deserted islands in Canada.”

Much love has to go out to local organizers including Kim Kozlowski (the higher education reporter for The Detroit News). She created her 313 Little Library pledge on her birthday after building one outside her Ferndale home, and friends of all stripes are helping out, especially her fellow “librarian” on the project, Cindy Dyson-McGlenn.

Another partner is Detroit-based End Grain Woodworking Co. that uses salvaged wood from the city to make everything from picture frames to restaurant tables and now, little libraries. These boxes are super sturdy and beautifully crafted. They look like little works of art that happen to hold one of life’s most precious gifts (books, natch).

What’s also great about this project is where the libraries are going. They’ll be found outside innovative projects like Write A House. They’ll grace us outside Westminster Church in Northwest Detroit. LFL also will be installed in several city parks throughout Detroit including Clark, Weiss, Hawthorne, Bennett, LaSalle Ford, Lafayette Central, Wilson, Edmore-Marbud and Butler.

Donations like this are essential to the campaign’s success – each library costs about $400 to build, install and seed with books. Bol’s trek here with 20 is a huge help. But Kozlowski wants to raise $25,000 in total to build the 313 locations across Detroit – and she needs much of that money still despite already having 60-plus donations so far.

To donate to the campaign, check out its Indiegogo page where you can donate money to create these little boxes of love. You also can find out how to make your own box and get information on where the next installations will be. It’s an effort near and dear to every bibliophile’s heart, and much moolah is still needed to get the project finished. All donations go directly to a library box’s construction – so give today!

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As an aside, here’s one more thing to think about and consider a donation toward. A lot of Detroit-based news, despite the many positive developments of late, continues to hang heavy on the people who live in the city – children, especially.

makerspaceDanielle Ray-Gore sees it as she going about her work as the Director of the Mt. Elliott Makerspace, a neighborhood workshop at 231 East Grand Boulevard in the city. It is a space where people across generations learn and make together.

“It’s a hands-on program where children, their parents, grandparents or caregivers can learn anything from electronics to entrepreneurship to sewing to nature. They get to play with anything they can get their hands on,” said Ray-Gore.

Personal expression is the name of the game. For example, Mt. Elliott Makerspace already has a music studio where kids learn how to operate the equipment and play together. Starting in 2015, there will be a photography class as well for families to learn the basics of taking a great picture and telling their stories.

The natural next step, Ray-Gore believes, is a newspaper. Or, at least, a newsroom experience. Her ultimate dream is an in-house news production studio. It would be something where kids could experiment with the equipment used in news gathering.

That’s where we all come in. I’m going to donate my time to this project and I’m excited to see where it goes from here. I love the work that groups such as the Youth Neighborhood News outlet do – and I’m hoping there will be widespread support for additional programs for the community like this one at the Mt. Elliott Makerspace.

“These kids will tell me: ‘Every time I see something about Detroit on the news, it’s always something bad,’” Ray-Gore said. “We believe that a lot of children need an outlet to voice their opinions. We want to give them that outlet and tell them, ‘If you think it’s always bad, what can you do to change that?’”

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