FernCare Gets Little Free Library
(Crystal A. Proxmire, July 25, 2015)
“Literacy is so important in any community,” said Kim Kozlowski as she watched her husband Jeff “the Post Master” Bennett dig a hole in the front lawn of the FernCare Free Clinic at 459 E. 9 Mile.
It didn’t take long for Bennett and Sam Constantine of End Grain to fill that spot with something they are pretty sure can change the world – a Little Free Library.
The weather-resistant unit looks like a large birdhouse on a pole, but the front is a door with glass so people can see that it is full of books. A sign lets people know they are welcome to take a book or leave a book for no charge.
There are no library cards. No fines. And no expectations other than the idea that spreading the joy of reading can make the world a better place.
“We know there are a lot of books out there, but there are also places where people don’t have access to them. Libraries are closed, or the books are old and out of date. People may not have transportation to get there, or maybe they can’t get a library card or can’t check books out because they’ve lost an item or whatever the case may be. This makes it accessible,” Kozlowski said.
The idea of Little Free Libraries appealed instantly to Kozlowski, who works as a reporter and loves to read. She saw one in someone’s yard in Ferndale and it sparked a passion to create more.
“We put one in front of our house on Jewel and we love it. People leave the most interesting books and we get to talk to our neighbors and all these people that come up,” she said.
From there Kozlowski decided to multiply the passion and put it out in the world, mainly in the City of Detroit where access to quality reading materials in neighborhoods can be a struggle. She founded Detroit Little Libraries, and her goal is to put 313 of them up in the area.
She’s been working hard gathering volunteers and support. The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press donated old newspaper boxes that volunteers painted with vibrant designs and placed through the community. End Grain, a small business specializing in projects made with reclaimed wood from torn down Detroit homes, works with Detroit Little Libraries to make the sanctuaries. And she’s had success with crowdfunding. Most recently Hamtramck Soup attendees selected the project for a $696 grant that is going to be used to buy books from diverse authors to share.
Another bright spot of support has come from the Birmingham United Methodist Church. Volunteers from the congregation came on board after Barbara Saul heard Kozlowski doing a radio interview. The church came on in September and adopted Detroit Little Libraries as a special project.
“This is the second one I’ve been part of,” Saul said as she helped volunteers ready the FernCare box. “We put one in Corktown about a month ago. A family that lives in Corktown has stayed there, raised their boys there. One of the boys went to Madonna University. He’s devoted his life to the rejuvenation of the community. We put one at his house. So now the neighborhood kids know there is a basketball hoop and two balls they can use, and a Little Free Library for books.”
Saul came up with the idea of putting one at FernCare. While it is not in Detroit, it is a logical place for one. “This location seemed obvious,” Saul said. “People are always walking by and the people coming in and out of the clinic are here because they’re seeking better health. There are physical health services and mental health. Reading is part of mental health.”
Ann Heler, President of the FernCare Board of Directors, was also on hand to watch the installation. “This is perfect! We are so grateful for this gift that will help who knows how many people have access to books and learning,” Heler said. “Imagine a world where more people are reading and excited about books!
FernCare is a free health clinic for people without health insurance. It is a nonprofit funded with grants and individual donations. Learn more at www.ferncare.org.
Detroit Little Library is a quickly-growing movement to spread the love of literacy. It also relies on volunteers and donations. Find out more at http://detroitlittlelibraries.org.
FernCare Gets Little Free Library