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Charleston High School promotes reading with more 'little' libraries; 'It gives people of all ages access to free books'
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Charleston High School promotes reading with more 'little' libraries; 'It gives people of all ages access to free books'

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CHARLESTON — After a book drive brought in more than 2,000 books at Charleston High School, Heather Landrus had an idea about how to make them available for people to read.

Landrus, the high school's media specialist, said she's a fan of Little Free Libraries, boxes filled with books, put on posts and placed in public locations. People can borrow, return and replace books at their leisure.

Some students are helping with the effort that should lead to six new Little Free Libraries being placed in and around Charleston by this spring.

"It gives people of all ages access to free books," Landrus said of the libraries. "I wanted to create something that could tap back into different school groups."

To make the project a reality, agriculture class students are using the woodworking shop in their classroom to construct the libraries. Landrus said agriculture teacher Ben Oakley and his students "absolutely loved the idea" when she approached them about it.

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And the student group Interact, a community service club sponsored by the Rotary organization, is raising money and will help look after the libraries after they're installed.

Student Delaney Horn, an Interact member who's also in the agriculture class building the libraries, said the project is something the class and the club can do to help the community.

"It will especially help kids," she said, adding that she hopes the project will benefit people who don't have, or have difficulty getting, public library cards.

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Agriculture class student Bryant Parker said he appreciates the chance to learn about woodworking in a way that will help the community.

"People who don't have books can have books for free," he said.

Students from Interact gave a presentation to the Charleston Rotary Club that led to a $600 donation from the Rotary to the project.

The group's members also will regularly check the libraries once they're in place to make sure they have enough books, club sponsor Kori Brimner said.

Brimner said the project is the club's first collaborative effort with another group at the school and, during her two years as its sponsor, Interact has never conducted "such a community effort before."

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There are already three Little Free Libraries in Charleston: at Lafferty Nature Center, in Heritage Woods and near the courthouse square.

The locations for the six from the high school project haven't been finalized. Landrus said there are plans to put one in Ashmore and one in Lerna, which are in the Charleston school district.

Landrus and Brimner said anyone who wants to volunteer or suggest a location for one of the libraries can contact either of them at the high school by phone at 217-639-5000 or email at LandrusH@charleston.k12.il.us or brimnerk@charleston.k12.il.us.

Money also has been raised through a GoFundMe crowdfunding account and donations can still be made through the site at gf.me/v/c/9xqt/chs-free-little-library-project.

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Landrus said enough money has been raised to build the libraries but additional donations will pay for plaques from the Little Free Library national organization and for more books if needed.

She also said she's not concerned about people taking books from the libraries without replacing them or donating another book in exchange.

She has sometimes placed a book in a Little Free Library after taking it from one in a different location, she said. The Charleston Carnegie Public Library also plans to donate more books to the project.

Landrus said the high school book drive took place just before winter break. The freshman class won the contest to collect the most books and will be rewarded with a pizza party, she said.

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Reporter

Dave Fopay is a reporter for the JG-TC who covers Coles County, the local court system, Charleston schools and more.

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