By DENISE FEDOROW
NAPPANEE — Visitors to Coppes Commons in Nappanee can now take a book or two home with them to read — for free — thanks to the Little Free Library recently installed inside.
Bill Warner, Coppes historian, constructed the Little Free Library, which is basically a wooden box shaped like a house sitting atop a pedestal with Plexiglas doors so people can see the titles of the books within.
Little Free Library is a national organization that began in 2009 as a program of non-profit, tax exempt organization, Wisconsin Partners for Sustainability. The founders of the program are Todd Bol and Rick Brooks. The pair met at a conference exploring green practices in small businesses.
Bol applied his carpentry skills and business skills to build the first little libraries and Brooks has built libraries in Sri Lanka and Mexico and is a longtime supporter of literacy, social empowerment and youth.
According to their website, the mission of the program is “to promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide; to build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations and to build more than 2,500 libraries around the world — more than Andrew Carnegie and then more.”
Warner said he “just happened upon the website and thought it was a great idea.” A former schoolteacher, Warner has always promoted literacy and reading. He felt having a little library at Coppes Commons was “killing two birds with one stone” — promoting literacy and promoting Coppes Commons.
According to the Little Library website, if you want to get a library started you can purchase one already made and a collection of books to get started. Most people like to design their own libraries, giving them distinct personalities and designs. Warner felt he could build one cheaper using repurposed wood that he had (also recommended by the founders of the program) and counted on donations to get the collection started.
“This way we kept it at no cost,” Warner said it took him about three days to build the library.
There is also a map with global positioning system coordinates for locating other Little Libraries on the Little Library website. Nappanee’s is not yet on the map and the closest one listed is in Akron, Ind. There are two in Valparaiso, a couple in the Indianapolis area and two in southern Indiana in New Albany and Sellersburg. The Little Library program is an especially great concept for small towns without library service, but the little libraries are going up all over the place in people’s front yards in neighborhoods, lake communities, etc.
The city of Nappanee has a public library and Library Director Lissa Krull is totally supportive of the Little Library. “The take-a-book, leave-a-book concept has been practiced in libraries all over the world so to see that springing up with this program is great,” she said. “In fact I know of several librarians who have made their own in their neighborhoods and I’ve thought of doing the same. The more people reading, the better.”
“We actually have a large unserved area close by, so this may help some people and at Coppes Commons they’ll get a lot of visitors who will be able to take advantage of the free books,” she said.
Krull said the public library has always had a book sale shelf at the library that has been an attraction with the city’s visitors. “People learn they can stop at libraries and get a book, now they’ll also be able to stop at Coppes. Anything that gets people out talking about books is nice; I think this will be great for Coppes and I totally support it,” she said.
One attraction of the Little Libraries is that they are little. We tend to love little things, the founders point out — babies, puppies and kittens — and small uniquely designed libraries.
Larry Andrews, marketing director at Coppes Commons, added, “As Americans we like grass roots. We love that this has no rules — take a book, leave a book, no due dates.”
The idea is you bring a book of your own that you’ve already read and exchange it for a different one. You don’t need to return the same book back to the Little Free Library, but one could.
Vicki Hunsberger was patronizing the Little Library and thought it was a great idea in general and great that it’s located at Coppes. Hunsberger lived in one of the original Coppes homes so she is thrilled to see the development of Coppes Commons, once the original factory for Coppes kitchen cabinets.
“This is a great way to promote this place,” she said. “People can come and buy ice cream and coffee, lunch or a bakery item at the bakery and sit here at the tables and read a book!”
Andrews, who along with Warner are co-stewards of the Little Library, said they installed it right before Christmas. People have been patronizing the little library — mostly adults but the shelf does contain a few children’s books, too.
“We started with a full shelf now it’s about three-fourths full,” he said.
Hunsberger said she thinks it’s a great thing for tourists passing through town as well, maybe they’re staying in town overnight and forgot their book they can visit the unique shops at Coppes Commons and take a book and not have to worry about having to return it.
Or for people taking a lunch break at Coppes they can have something to read and if it gets their interest, take it along to finish it.
“We just want people to know it’s here and that there are no restrictions,” Andrews said. “People are free to come, to read and to enjoy!”