Collaboration brings Little Free Libraries to local community

Through a collaboration between local parents, Alexander Elementary School, Iowa City West High School, the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization, the Community Foundation of Johnson County, and several other organizations, twenty-five Little Free Libraries have been placed in the greater Iowa City community.

The parent teacher organization at Alexander Elementary School came up with the idea to add Little Free Libraries throughout town, a process that began in October 2016.

A Little Free Library (LFL) is a “take a book, return a book” free book exchange. Iowa City has several little libraries scattered throughout town, but Angie Jordan, the Little Free Library project leader, noticed that the southeast area was lacking libraries in high foot traffic areas where families live.

Jordan says, “Bringing access to literature, art and the power of writing to the youth and people on the southeast side of Iowa City has motivated us in this first phase of the LFL project.”

Last fall, Jordan recruited another parent to help her with the project, Anna Flaming. The two moms wrote grants, approached individual donors, and met with high school industrial tech teachers to discuss partnerships. They received a grant in January 2017 from HAV Life Foundation Johnson County that moved the project forward.

While Iowa City West High School students in a workshop class built the libraries, Jordan and Flaming hosted creative contests for Alexander Elementary School students to participate in the Little Free Libraries project. In a persuasive essay contest, students wrote about their favorite book and why it should be included in the new Little Free Libraries. The winners were given a new copy of their favorite book, and each Little Free Library was filled with students’ favorite books through a donation from MidWestOne.

Additional funds that went directly to purchasing charter signs to be placed on the libraries was provided through a fund at the Community Foundation of Johnson County that is jointly managed by the City of Literature organization and the Altrusa Club of Iowa City.

“The charter signs link our efforts directly to LittleFreeLibrary.org – literally putting each library on the worldwide map!  (The City of Literature organization) also offered insights and ideas to help network our efforts into the greater community of Iowa City,” Jordan explains.

With help from a true community effort, students at Alexander Elementary School and Iowa City West High School have turned a dream for additional community libraries into reality.

Little Free Libraries have already been placed at Fire Station #3, the Broadway Neighborhood Center, HACAP apartments (off Broadway), Wetherby Park, Terry Trueblood Park, Fairmeadow Park, Saddlebrook Club House, Paddock Circle, ABC Childcare (off Lakeside), Sandusky Street, Orchard Place (Crosspark and Broadway), and Keokuk apartments (Keokuk Street). Five additional libraries will be placed in Iowa City’s southeast neighborhoods by early August.

“In our next phase, we plan to host supportive programming around these installations, like a 5k run/walk, community scavenger hunts, and yarn-bombing. This project has been a real team effort,” Jordan says.

The City of Literature/Altrusa Little Free Library Fund with the Community Foundation of Johnson County has funds available for those interested in creating a Little Free Library for their neighborhood. Projects must be within Johnson County to receive funding. Visit this page for more information.

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