National news highlights staff member’s project

One Continuing Studies staff member finds himself in the national limelight these days. In the past two weeks the Little Free Library project, cofounded by Rick Brooks, has been featured in USA Today, National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” and a NBC Nightly News segment called “Making a Difference.”

Brooks–whose programming efforts for Continuing Studies focus on organizational communication and community-building–started Little Free Library along with a colleague from Hudson, Wisconsin. The project involves providing a sheltered home for exchanging books in one’s front yard, a city park, or any populated area where people can share books.

A front-page article appeared in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in January. The Capital Times ran an update this week. The project has also been covered by media in France, Denmark, and Sweden, and a Russian news team is scheduled to fly to the Midwest to cover the story. School of Business undergrads are working with groups to install libraries in locations as far apart as Shanghai and Madison’s southwest side.

According to Brooks, “Take a book, leave a book” is the mantra for the public service project. So far, at least 34 states and 18 countries are involved, including 15 Little Free Libraries in Ghana.

Last fall the University’s Academic Staff Assembly gave Brooks a surprise award “For Service as an Ambassador of Good Will and Launching the Little Library Project in the City of Madison.”

Brooks enjoys the mission because it “builds a sense of community, promote reading for kids, literacy for adults, and libraries around the world.” He also is overwhelmed by the support of this service by his colleagues in Continuing Studies.

Prof. Emily Auerbach, director of the Odyssey Project, purchased a Little Library with contributions from local donors to a unique “Give it Forward” fund. He installed this one in front of the Continuing Studies offices at 21 N. Park St. and now shares works of classic literature read by Odyssey students.

Antonio Noguera, leader of Continuing Studies Spanish classes, and his wife Araceli Alonso, are so captivated by the idea that they have installed a book-swapping spot in front of their home that features many books in Spanish. Alonso wants to take the Little Library idea to Kenya and Spain. Director of language programs, Sage Goellner, provides French literature in a Little Library to be located at a State Street coffee shop where her French conversation group meets.

Another Continuing Studies staffer, editor Alex Hancock contributed signed copies of his novel to the project. Emeritus Professor Marshall Cook has written for the Little Free Library website and hosted a library at his home, that features books about his favorite topics: writing and baseball.

“This effort is a great example of the Wisconsin Idea,” Brooks noted. “People all over the U.S. and around the globe are recycling, reading, and sharing good books.”

To find plans for building your own little library, visit  the project website. There you’ll also find a map showing the locations of all the book-sharing boxes around the world, as well as a gallery of photos depicting the dazzling array of shapes, sizes, and colors that people use to create these popular miniatures.

Finished libraries are also available for purchase, if you’re not handy with a hammer. Plant one next to a sidewalk near you and watch the neighbors start coming by almost every day.