When the College Hill Corridor Commission created its master plan a few years ago, it had a variety of goals, from uniting neighborhoods to beautifying the area and providing fun activities.
The corridor area is about to get the rare program that touches all of them.
On Thursday, organizers are scheduled to unveil the first of six “little free libraries” as part of Yappy Hour at 6 p.m. at the Macon Dog Park. It’s located at the corner of Chestnut and Adams streets near Tattnall Square Park.
Funded by a $5,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Macon Little Free Library program is a different way for residents to connect, as well as to encourage reading, said Jennifer Look, a Mercer University professor of chemistry who applied for the grant.
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The concept is simple: Anyone may stop by and pick up a book and bring back another book to share.
“Little free libraries began in Wisconsin with one small box that someone made in honor of his mother, who was a retired schoolteacher,” Look said.
“It’s something that will raise literacy and community involvement. We’ll have events related to books. There are thousands of these in cities across the globe. We’re basing it very strongly on what has worked in other cities.”
Heather Pendergast, executive director of the College Hill Alliance, said the little libraries are the sort of program the alliance was created to encourage.
“It gives us a public art element, as well as promoting literacy and engagement among the neighborhood,” she said. “But it also ties in with an element of fun -- all of the things that make the corridor special.”
With the motto, “Building communities through sharing stories,” the program is fairly straightforward.
Each of the six boxes will have its own theme, ranging from the Woodstock and Snoopy “Peanuts” box at the dog park to a full-size box designed to look like the TARDIS time machine from the British TV series “Doctor Who” (which will be unveiled later at James Park at the corner of College Street and Georgia Avenue.)
Other locations will include G. Bernd Park; the alley near H&H Restaurant on Forsyth Street; the Oglethorpe-Maple-Lee streets triangle; and Tattnall Square Park.
Central students helping
Most of the boxes are being built by Christopher Marney, while students at Central High School, under the direction of art teacher Sherrie Jamison, are painting the boxes.
Jamison said one of her students, senior Joseph Lofton, was looking for a project for his senior year and had come up with the idea of creating the little libraries in Macon about the same time that Look was applying for the grant.
Lofton, a finalist for a Gates Millenium Award and the founder of the National Art Honor Society, designed and painted the “Peanuts”-themed box that will be placed in the dog park. He said he’s always been a fan of the “Peanuts” characters. Snoopy’s doghouse is also well known, so the theme worked perfectly for the little free library and the location.
“I stumbled across (little free libraries) on the Internet,” said Lofton, who wants to dually enroll at Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design. “It’s something that brings out the community through arts and reading. It resonated with me. As a kid, I didn’t like reading. I was more of a visual arts person.”
Organizers have received hundreds of donated books that will be used at the locations. The idea behind the little libraries is for someone to borrow a book and leave another book in its place. There are no library cards. Everyone who borrows a book is on the honor system to return it at some point.
“All of the books are donated, so you can’t steal a free book,” she said.
Look said the organizers have received advice from the Middle Georgia Regional Library System, Friends of the Library and other organizations.
Each of the little free libraries also will have book plates, where borrowers can share their thoughts about a particular book after they read it.
“We want to get new people exposed to reading,” Look said. “We want them to be inspired to start reading.”
Pendergast said all of the little library designs were submitted to the College Hill Corridor Commission for approval.
“On the face of it, it’s very, very simple,” she said. “It’s fun.”
The grand opening for all of the little free libraries will be held in May.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.