In an age of electronic media, there is still nothing that quite compares to reading a book.
A group of volunteers in the Centre Region, with the help of a local nonprofit organization, is trying to promote community- building and literacy through free outdoor book exchanges. To get funding for the project, the group needs support from local residents by this afternoon.
Etta Habegger, Robert Raggazino, Alexa Schriempf and Ruth Mendum were inspired by the concept of the Little Free Library, which started two years ago in Wisconsin and has grown into a nationwide movement.
The basic idea is that people set up their own library outside their homes which can take the form of a box, bin or anything that can hold books with the intention of inviting their neighbors to pick up the books.
The first Little Free Library in Centre County was constructed in May at the home of Alexandra Broyles on Ridge Avenue in State College. The volunteers would like to make and set up at least 50 such libraries throughout Centre County, with as many as possible being placed near bike paths and routes, parks and trails, and with complementary themes.
I think its really (about) connecting people and opening new worlds for them through reading, said Habegger, who lives in College Township.
To realize that goal, the volunteers have applied for a $5,000 grant from GoodMaker, an organization that promotes social change and community-building. The winner of the grant will be determined by vote, which began on July 19 and will conclude at 3 p.m. today.
The grant would also cover outreach efforts, including creating a Read-cycling Map and brochure to be included in each library, as well as a workshop for individuals who wish to create their own libraries.
Habegger said she initially heard about the Little Free Library movement on National Public Radio. In addition to distributing books, she said, the concept encourages people to explore their neighborhoods, discover new areas and talk to people who share a passion for reading.
Habegger and her fellow volunteers are receiving assistance in construction and logistics from New Leaf Initiative, a nonprofit organization in State College that started two years ago and acts as an incubator and consulting service for individuals who are interested in social innovation.
As a self-funded organization that operates without grants, said Spud Marshall, executive director, New Leaf strives to create the right space for ideas.
Were re-thinking the way we attack root issues in the community, he said.
New Leaf Initiatives lab, located at 100 S. Fraser St., is open during the summer from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (or by appointment). For more information, visit www.newleafinitiative.org. To vote for the grant for the Little Free Library project in Centre County, visit http://outdoors. maker.good.is/projects/LittleFree Libraries and click Vote for this Idea.
For more information about the Little Free Library movement, visit www.littlefreelibrary.org. Stephanie Koons writes this weekly column featuring news from the Centre Region. Contact her at 235- 3927 or email@example.com.