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August 18, 2013 09:55 PM

Miniature Literature

Sioux Falls, SD

A nationwide book-sharing program is opening a new chapter in Sioux Falls. These so-called Little Free Libraries are springing up across the country, including the South Dakota communities of Sisseton and Rapid City.  Now Sioux Falls is adding a pair of these new micro-libraries. Little Free Libraries could have a big impact on literacy.

The ongoing construction boom in Sioux Falls extends to even the smallest of scales.

"This is a neat project, let's do something," TSP architect Rex Hambrock said.

Raw materials including pine, plywood, paint and perseverance went into the making of this new library in central Sioux Falls.

"That detail I think helps it pop," Hambrock said.

Glue holds it all together.

"Glue takes a while to dry so you can only do so much at a time," Hambrock said.

Not much bigger than a bird house, this construction project is the newest addition to the effort to build thousands of micro-libraries across the country.

"You want to have people look in. Otherwise they just walk by and don't think twice about it, so what can there be to say hey, come in, check me out," Hambrock said.

Volunteers at the History Club put the finishing touches on this Little Free Library. The project fits nicely into the club's ongoing efforts to promote literacy in Sioux Falls.

"We know that access to books is the biggest barrier to literacy. So by having a free library, anybody can walk by and grab a book," History Club member Sarah Stowers said.

Architects with TSP designed the library to look just like the History Club's 74-year-old club house located on Phillips Avenue.

"I won't say it's a true scale because I manipulated it a little bit to be in scale with some building materials, so that it could go together quickly," Hambrock said.

The little library is built to withstand the extremes of South Dakota weather.

"Can't do anything about the ice storms that we had in the spring though. Might just need a big garbage bag on top of it to protect it, I'm not sure," Hambrock said.

The History Club will stock the shelves with books. It works strictly on the honor system: take a book, return a book.

"I think in this day of electronics, people are getting rid of books and here's a perfect way to get rid of books and see that they are continually recycled," Stowers said.

Just a couple of blocks away from The History Club sits another Little Free Library. This one is modeled after a time machine from the Dr. Who science fiction TV series.

"We are Dr. Who fans and might as well share our nerd-dom," Ty Buck of the All-Saints Neighborhood Association said.

Buck filled the library outside of her house with mostly science fiction books. But children's books and mysteries have been the biggest movers on and off the shelves.

"Several of the books have disappeared, come back, new ones have been replaced," Buck said.

This sidewalk-accessible library has been a curiosity to people in the All-Saints neighborhood unfamiliar with the Little Free Library back story.

"What the heck is that? Explain more. And a lot of it is explain what it is. I've had a couple ask if it was my mailbox? No,'" Buck said.

The push to promote literacy has come full circle for members of the History Club. The group raised money to help build the first Carnegie Library in Sioux Falls. More than a century later, they've built a much smaller one: a library on the front lawn.

TSP is building its own Little Free Library. It will be posted outside of its West Avenue architecture firm in a couple of weeks. 

To learn more about Little Free Libraries, click here.

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