Several Annapolis groups band together for 18 little libraries along trail to encourage more reading
By JACK HOGAN CAPITAL GAZETTE
AUG 25, 2020 AT 12:00 PM
Photo of the "Little Free Library" in front of the Pip Moyer Recreation Center. More "Little Free Libraries" are being placed along the WEE Trail. Recreation and Parks built the library in front of the rec center and, in partnership with the Rotary Club of Annapolis, the mayor's office and Little Free Library, will be building the new ones. (Jeffrey F. Bill)
In an effort to combat lower reading rates across the country, several Annapolis groups have partnered to make free books available to Annapolis residents with 18 weatherproof little libraries.
Annapolis Recreation and Parks director Archie Trader said the libraries will be built between the end of August and the beginning of September in parks and communities along Mayor Gavin Buckley’s envisioned West-East Expressway, which would connect Waterworks Park to the Historic District.
The libraries will be roofed square boxes, not much larger than a milk crate, standing atop a wood post. Trader said the department will place the little libraries in areas along the envisioned trail that children and their parents frequent, such as parks, to encourage reading. The project is helmed by the Annapolis Rotary Club with other partners.
“If you’ve ever been into a house where there’s no books, no magazines, no newspapers, it is a terrible thing,” Trader said. “I’ve been in houses like that, and it discourages children, or does not give children incentive, to read.”
Leisure reading in the U.S. declined between 2004 and 2018, according to reporting from The Washington Post. The Pew Research Center reported in 2019 that more than a quarter of U.S. adults hadn’t read a book at all in 2018.
Dona Sturn, one of the founders of the Annapolis Rotary Club’s Breakfast Group and organizer of the project, said the 30 to 40 books in each little library will be free for anyone to access. “The objective was, how do we put an influx into our community of books so that people could keep them and build on their personal home libraries,” Sturn said. The project, which Sturn said she first brainstormed two years ago, was scheduled to begin in March but was postponed because of the pandemic. Taking objects touched by others is also a new concern due to the pandemic.
Community members will be advised to wipe down books before bringing them inside their homes to mitigate the risk of transmitting the coronavirus, Sturn said.
Anne Arundel County health officer Nilesh Kalyanaraman said if community members take necessary precautions, including leaving hardcovers untouched for three days and paperbacks for one day, risk of transmission from bringing books from the little libraries into their homes is “extremely low.”
Sturn said the rotary club’s project will use Little Free Library’s brand and platform but will differ from the international organization’s mission. Little Free Library promotes the exchange of books through its 100,000 libraries in more than 100 countries, according to its website. The rotary club’s goal is for community members to keep the books they take.
Recreation and parks installed a little library in front of Pip Moyer Recreation Center three years ago when Trader became head of the department. He said the little library is restocked every two to three months, adding that it would be restocked more often if members of the community refrained from returning books they took.
The Books for International Goodwill warehouse, founded through the Rotary Club of Parole, will provide books in English and Spanish for the program from its daily donations, which total between 1,500 and 2,000. Organization president Steve Frantzich said the warehouse had donated roughly 1,000 books of a variety of genres to the project as of Monday.
The Rotary Club of Annapolis is in the process of developing an app that will log which genres are most popular. If a certain genre at a certain location is especially popular, the rotary club will fill that box with more of the desired genre. Having data to draw from will also help the rotary club apply for grant money to grow the project, Sturn said.
The 18 little libraries will be placed at 14 different locations along the envisioned trail, including Poplar Park. Adetola Ajayi, African American community services specialist for the mayor’s office, said the city chose locations near both low-income communities and more affluent areas to encourage reading among people of different socioeconomic backgrounds. The libraries will be monitored and refilled every few weeks to ensure each maintains between 30 to 40 books.
Four of the locations will feature both children’s and adult book boxes. Each of the boxes will be dedicated to a deceased influential member of the community, including Annapolis activist Robert Eades and young people killed by violence, Ajayi said.
The rotary club divided its project into three phases. In phase one, recreation and parks will install the 18 little libraries in areas along the envisioned trail. Phase two will include installing little libraries inside city community centers and in phase three the rotary club aims to extend the project to other areas of the city and county, including the grounds surrounding Walter S. Mills-Parole Elementary School, Trader said.
The rotary club has raised more than $12,000 of its $20,000 goal for phase one. Four little libraries for children’s books were donated, and 11 of the 14 remaining little libraries have been paid for through sponsorship from organizations and members of the community.
Sturn said it costs $500 to sponsor one of the little libraries and the rotary club is searching for sponsors for the remaining three. Each one that isn’t sponsored will be paid for by the rotary club. Sturn said at least 10 little libraries are also available for sponsorship as part of phase two.
Jack Hogan is a news intern at The Capital and a rising senior at the University of Maryland, majoring in journalism with a minor in international development and conflict management. He's also written for the Greenbelt News Review and The Campus Trainer, an on-campus publication at UMD.