With the recent addition of two Little Free Libraries, Nebraska City joins a growing number of big cities and small towns across the globe in providing free, round-the-clock access to books of all kinds.
The project was initiated by the Optimist Club of Nebraska City.
“Bringing the libraries to Nebraska City exemplifies our Optimist Creed, whether that be bringing out the best in people, being enthusiastic about people’s passion for reading, or giving of ourselves for the improvement of others,” said Optimist Club President Neal Deremer.
The Little Free Library movement is a non-profit, worldwide book exchange that promotes free access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds, according to littlefreelibrary.org.
The movement began in Wisconsin in 2009, when founder Todd Bol built a model one-room school house, placed it in his front yard, stocked it with books and invited the public to join in the free exchange of literature.
Bol launched the project as a tribute to his mother, a teacher, but quickly partnered with others to create a worldwide movement of free access to books, inspired by the philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie.
With over 50,000 Little Free Libraries in more than 70 countries, millions of books are exchanged annually in places like China, India, Brazil and Australia.
There are over 100 Little Free Libraries in Nebraska, including the new ones constructed by the Optimists a few weeks ago.
Observing Little Free Libraries in Lincoln led local Optimists to create a plan for libraries here in Nebraska City.
Club Secretary/Treasurer Katie Mocnik enlisted her dad, Steve Holman, to construct the library boxes from reclaimed materials.
Knapp Roofing donated shingles for the project, and Mocnik says Cargill Cares donated $200 to cover the cost of materials and fees for registering with the Little Free Libraries organization.
One library is located on the grounds of St. Benedict’s Catholic Church, next to Lourdes Primary School, and the other is in front of First Presbyterian Church.
Prior to construction of the libraries, Patrick Wehling served as contact person for First Presbyterian and says there was never a doubt the church would participate in the project.
Father Mark Cyza of St. Benedict’s echoes that sentiment.
“Our focus at Lourdes is education, so we’re happy to partner with the Optimist Club to promote literacy,” Cyza said.
Optimist Club members, the Morton-James Public Library and community members helped with initial book donations, and volunteers will monitor the libraries regularly to keep them tidy.
With construction and installation completed a few weeks ago, the Optimist Club believes the libraries will provide many years of enjoyment for local residents.
“We’re hoping our youth will share their favorite literature with other youth,” said Deremer.
This goal fits well with the Little Free Libraries focus on promoting literacy, especially among children and teens.
The Little Free Library website offers ideas for engaging young people with books, including a YouTube challenge as well as suggestions for launching a book discussion group.
In addition to promoting literacy for children and teens, the libraries also serve as a way for readers of all ages to share literature and connect with other community members.
Life-long reader and Optimist Club member Diane Siefkes says she has always loved the idea of Little Free Libraries. Promoting literacy through the free exchange of books is the foundation of the Little Free Libraries movement. This philosophy complements the Optimist Club focus on building community and fostering a love for reading.
Now that Nebraska City has joined the global Little Free Libraries movement, the Optimist Club encourages everyone to take a book or two, leave a book or two and visit often.