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What's The Big Idea?

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Little Free Library comes to Winter Springs

Last summer, former Winter Springs City Commissioner Rick Brown paid a visit to Johnson City, Tennessee. As he was walking through town, Rick’s friend brought him to see something she and her husband were proud to have in their city. At first glance, Rick saw what one might rightly mistake for a large birdhouse. A closer inspection revealed not birds inside, but rather something near and dear to Rick: books!

The structure was a Little Free Library, one of more than 36,000 take-a-book/leave-a-book exchanges that can be found in all 50 states and more than 70 countries. This little yet big idea originated with Todd H. Bol, who built and gave away 30 Little Free Libraries in 2010. The concept grew rapidly, and by 2012, it became a social entrepreneurial mission focused on providing free and convenient access to books.

The organization’s motto, “Take A Book, Return A Book” so impressed Rick that he sent a text message with photos to current Winter Springs City Commissioner Joanne Krebs.

“Winter Springs doesn’t have a community library, so I thought this was a great idea, and Joanne agreed,” Rick says.

Excited by what she saw, it didn’t take long for Joanne to present the Little Free Library concept to her fellow city commissioners. By July 2015, the idea was approved and a collaboration forged with the Winter Springs Parks and Recreation department and three area schools: Winter Springs High School, Indian Trails Middle School, and Keeth Elementary.

“This project brought civics and literacy together for the students,” says Melissa Laudani, assistant principal at Indian Trails. “Many eagerly collected books, while teacher Richard Gregg’s carpentry class at Winter Springs High School worked on a design template that was eventually scaled up and built by the Parks and Recreation department.”

By late April 2016, the first Little Free Library in Winter Springs was installed in Trotwood Park near the splash pad and playground an ideal setting, the city hopes, to promote literacy and summer reading. Commissioner Krebs, Chris Caldwell and his Parks and Recreation team, Rick, and representatives from all three schools attended the recent unveiling and grand opening. Students stocked the library with books they collected, including some for Spanish-speaking residents. Rick added a special book of his own, Sentiment and Sense, authored by his father, the writer and journalist Alec Dyson Brown.

“In my mind, I would like to see this as a series of more to come,” says Commissioner Krebs. In fact, she intends to personally fund the next Little Free Library, which hopes to be located at City Hall.

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