United Way sets up Little Free Libraries

Jan Dils shows the new Little Free Library is already full of books at Jackson Park in Vienna. (Photo Provided)

PARKERSBURG – The United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley had an idea and The News & Sentinel helped bring it to life.

A few months ago, The News & Sentinel donated four newspaper boxes that were no longer in circulation with the understanding that United Way would use them in a new way. This week, those four boxes are in the community as little free libraries and will soon bring joy to adults and children alike.

Little Free Libraries are a global phenomenon. The small, front-yard book exchanges number more than 36,000 around the world in 70 countries – from Iceland to Tasmania to Pakistan. Each year, nearly 10 million books are shared in Little Free Libraries. Now, there are four new Little Free Libraries in the Mid-Ohio Valley, officials said.

“We wanted to join the movement to share books, bring people together and create communities of readers,” said Stacy DeCicco, community impact coordinator at United Way Alliance. “Improving literacy rates and third-grade reading levels is one of our main initiatives so this fits right into delivering on our mission. And just like everything else we do, we wanted to partner with others to make it happen.”

Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law, a corporate partner, adopted one of the Little Free Libraries and become its steward, which requires someone to frequently check on it, stock it with books, and promote it to others. The Jan Dils Little Free Library was placed on Tuesday at Jackson Park in Vienna.

“Reading is such an important part of developing a young mind,” said Jan Dils. “Sometimes, reading the right book at the right time can influence the rest of your life. That’s why we wanted to help with this community project. Not everyone has quick access to a traditional library, so an option like this will benefit a lot of readers.”

Another Little Free Library was placed at the United Way office on Market Street and might catch the attention of those passing by. “Ralph the Remarkable Reading Robot” has interesting books to share and was a perfect project for the United Way staff.

“When Stacy and I discussed this idea, we knew it would take some work to make the boxes look great,” said Andrea Shirey, executive director at United Way Alliance. “I had no idea how much work it would be but Stacy went above and beyond, especially with our robot box. It is sure to grab the attention of others and makes a wonderful addition outside our office.”

The two remaining Little Free Libraries are placed outside of Classic Plastics, sponsored by Downtown PKB, and Belpre Area Ministries, sponsored by the Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce.

“United Way is doing extraordinary work every day,” said DeCicco. “This is just one example of many where we take an idea, partner with our community, and make it happen. These libraries don’t just belong to us, they belong to the whole community.”

United Way hopes many will take advantage of the new resources and start sharing books with others, especially those that might not have easy access to the libraries.

“I hope many will leave a book when they can, take a book when they want one, and make it a regular stop,” said Shirey. “We love our libraries and support almost all of them through United Way funding. But this is about creating another access point to books and ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to read a book.”

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