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'Little free library' coming to town

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Jill Godlewski the Childrens Director at the Monessen Public Library paints a small book case for their new program, My Little Free Library. It's a out reach program that will put little book cases in various locations around town, for people to borrow library books and to get people to read. You don't even need a library card to borrow the books. the program is set to start in June, once everthing is set in place. Jim Ference | The Valley Independent

Monessen residents soon will be able to borrow library books – at the laundromat.

Jill Godlewski, children's director at the Monessen Public Library, is planning to place several portable libraries scattered around town. Godlewski hopes to situate the wooden dispensaries once the weather clears.

“The idea is to get books to people instead of people having to come to the library to get books,” Godlewski said. “We want to make sure there are no barriers to getting a book.

“We're starting small. The first one we hope to have in place when school gets out. I'm hoping the people of Monessen are going to get excited by it.”

The idea stemmed from the national “Little Free Library” organization that started three years ago in Hudson, Wisc. That's where the movement's founder, Todd Bol, built a portable wooden library in honor of his mother and placed it in his front yard.

Bol made books available and people kept coming and borrowing. For the Monessen project, Donna Walker, a city resident who works for a scholastic book company, has already donated 80 books, Godlewski said.

“It's our outreach program,” Godlewski said. “We don't need to stack up statistics, we need books in more hands. We have enough books and my bet is, the more people use it, the more people will donate books.”

Right now, Godlewski is eyeing businesses like Union Cleaners laundromat and apartment complexes such as Eastgate and Highland manors – sites conducive to reading.

“Who doesn't wish they had a book when their clothes are going around and around?” Godlewski said of the laundromat location. “We're going to start out with primarily children's books, but we'll have a few adult and non-fiction novels. If it's a big success, we can put more of a mix in.”

Godlewski said there will be strict qualifications for the books, such as “quality, new, interesting books. Nothing outdated, worn out or colored-in.”

Monessen school district Superintendent Linda Marcolini is planning for wood shop students at the high school to build sturdier, weather-proof units for outdoor locations like City Park.

“Mr. (David) Gilpin, our shop teacher and students will be making them,” Marcolini said. “They will get done before the end of the school year... our district would do anything for our community and public library.”

Unlike the public library, the portable units will operate under the honor system. But what if someone doesn't return a book they borrowed?

“That means, that in somebody's home, there's a book where there wasn't one before,” Godlewski said. “We want people to return the books ... the whole point of doing this is to place more books in more hands.”

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2635.