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Little Free Libraries open across Kenai

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Riley Board
The Little Free Library in Daubenspeck Park.

A set of little libraries are on the map and open for business around Kenai. The Friends of the Kenai Community Library have installed and registered nine libraries around town that will allow community members to have or borrow books on street corners, in parks and elsewhere in Kenai.

The Friends have been working for two years to develop and relocate a group of little libraries that are affiliated with the national Little Free Libraries program. Three of the libraries — one in Daubenspeck Park, one on Forest Drive and one at Municipal Park — have existed for years, unaffiliated with that organization.

Eileen Bryson is a friend of the library and the area coordinator for the little libraries. She said with this expansion, she was interested in putting libraries in higher density areas and other places, like parks, that are accessible to children in the Kenai area.

“It’s really nice for everyone to have a chance to get books, and to look at books,” Bryson said.

She said all the libraries maintained by the group are currently open, except one, on Forest Drive, is not operational because it is in a snow removal dumping location.

The libraries were created through a large communal effort. Three of the libraries were built by inmates at the Wildwood Correctional Facility in Kenai, and another three were built by students in a shop class at Kenai Central High School. Several businesses around town, including Morgan Steel, Home Depot and Carquest, donated lumber, paint and other materials.

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Riley Board
A little library at the Senic Bluff Overlook, made by students at Kenai Central Highschool.

The Kenai Department of Parks and Recreation installed most of those libraries. Others are on private properties, outside homes, but those have to be installed by the property owners.

One thing the Friends have done to increase accessibility of the libraries is affiliate them with the Little Free Libraries organization with a set of metal ID tags. The tags allow the libraries to be registered on the Little Free Library national map, where users can search for the address of libraries near them.

“I just think it’s gonna be fun for people, especially if they can look online now, and find out where they are, and go check and see which books they have there,” Bryson said.

The tags cost almost $40 apiece, but Bryson said the group requested financial assistance and the national organization donated 10 tags to Kenai.

Bryson said Ben Meyer, another Friends member, is working on making a physical map, too, that will hang in the main library and city hall and allow people to locate the small ones around town.

The books inside the little libraries are stocked primarily from the Kenai Community Library. Bryson rounded up options from a book sale to fill the little libraries. When the community library removes books from its collection, they’re also added to the small libraries.

Bryson and other Friends monitor the boxes to make sure they’re well stocked and that the books are appropriate. They also offer books to the private property owners, and rotate the books between libraries.

Unlike a traditional library that requires books to be returned, users of the little free library have a choice.

“They’re welcome to keep them, they don’t have to give them back. Especially for kids who don’t have books at their home, that’s a really nice thing, too,” Bryson said. “And maybe when they get tired of them they can switch them or they can keep them forever.”

Bryson said, so far, she’s been hearing good feedback, especially from private property owners who maintain libraries, who say they’re being well used.

Friends of the Community Library is open to allowing community members to “adopt” a library, and be responsible for its upkeep, supply books or just check up on the box.

Riley Board is a Report For America reporter covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula for KDLL.
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