Publisher’s Point: The Little Library That Could

7-4-2014 2-46-48 PMIt has been a week, as they say. A landmark Supreme Court decision re: Hobby Lobby’s right to have their corporate conscience protected from Obamacare, 3 Israeli teenagers brutally murdered, virtual amnesty for invading teenagers that are crossing our southern sieve-like borders, my beloved Iraq deciding to turn to Russia for help, (good luck with that,) and on top of it all, it is the 4th of July, one of my favorite holidays. The 4th is a fave because it finally means more to me than cookouts, kosher franks and fireworks, and even though after all these years the sounds of explosions still make me want to don my Kevlar, find a bunker, pray and do my labor breathing, I certainly am willing to be uncomfortable in order to honor my brave forebears and be with my family.

On the one hand it looks like we are racing toward Armageddon, and on the other hand it looks like we might have a functional judiciary. And, back at the ranch, in Athens we are getting new sidewalks, and some folks ain’t happy. System Normal, All Messed Up, or, System Abnormal, All Blessed Up?

I always take seriously this space that is reserved for Publisher’s Point. God knows in this day of uber-communication, everyone sees themselves as the Great Communicator, and I have no desire to be “talking” to hear the sound of my voice and take up space. What to write? Then I found it, this dear little story, that in my view so illustrates the beauty of our great nation, and it essentially reached up and hugged me. Here goes.

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In Kansas, there was this 9 year old kid named Spencer Collins who is a member of a worldwide literacy promoting group called “Little Free Library.” In his yard there is a small structure that is sturdily built, painted blue, and is on red stilts. In it are books that are free for the taking, and it has been looked upon with favor by most of the community. But then, there were complaints because it apparently violated an ordinance. The mayor is trying to get the ordinance amended, the Collins’ are being patient with the process, and the complaining council member seems to be afraid that there is going to be a “Little Free Library” in every yard.

7-4-2014 2-47-22 PMSpencer’s dilemma has gotten national attention, and other “librarians” have rallied to support the Collins family. But what “wrapped a bow around it” for me was the “rest of the story.” Not too far from the Collins’ is a town in Kansas named Mission. A woman by the name of Gwenyth Jones had a “little free library” in her yard. It was vandalized, and over 100 books were taken. Then, “contagious community building” took over.

“I put a sign in my yard that the books had been taken, and people immediately started bringing books,” Jones said. “If anything, the vandalism has strengthened my desire to keep the momentum going in the KC area. I really believe it’s making a difference in the community; just look at how fast these books are showing back up.”

Worldwide, in over 62 countries there are about 15,000 registered “Little Free Libraries,” and in the Kansas City area alone there are over 30. In Alabama, we have a bit over 20, the closest being in Toney, and I’d love to see Athens “catch the bug.” Understanding that literacy is necessary for liberty to thrive just might turn you into a “little free librarian,” yourself. Happy 4th of July, and don’t forget to thank a veteran and a teacher for the blessing that is the freedom of the press, and the opportunity to read freely and for free in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner