The Brownwood Public Library has applied for a grant to erect 18 Little Free Libraries around Brown County, an effort to expand the library’s outreach and community impact.   

Little Free Libraries are freestanding, birdhouse-like structures that store a small selection of books that readers can remove, return and add to. The libraries operate on an honor system and require little upkeep or oversight beyond their initial construction.   

The tiny collections are a project of Little Free Library, a nonprofit organization that, according to its website, “inspires a love of reading, builds community and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around he world.”   

Becky Isbell is the director of the Brownwood Public Library. She said Little Free Libraries can get Brown County residents involved in several different ways. “We’re hoping that the local high schools, for instance, would be able to build them,” Isbell said. “Whether it’s individuals or businesses or nonprofits … we’re hoping that these will be built locally and we can partner with the community in that way.   

“Also, we’ve got several commitments on where we can put these, but then we do have a few places where we haven’t got those final commitments yet. So we’re looking for key places where we can put these up,” she said. Isbell said the library is also looking for people who will volunteer to maintain the libraries.   

“From what I read, a lot of times they are pretty self-maintaining,” she said, “but just people to keep an eye on them. If they need re-stocked books, they can bring some to the library and swap them out. Different things like that. I’m hoping it can be a really wide community project.”   

Isbell said it’s difficult for the library, the only one in Brown County, to truly connect with communities like Brookesmith, May and Blanket. “We don’t do a whole lot of outreach to the outlying areas of Brown County, and I know sometimes it’s hard for those people to get in,” she said. “We’re hoping that this is a way that we can reach out to those outlying communities and draw them in.”   

The Little Free Library website says increasing access to books is “one of the most successful ways to improve the reading achievement of children.” There are currently over 50,000 Little Free Libraries in over 70 countries around the world, including one in Brownwood at the Family Services Center. “I’ve talked to them, and they said they’re so overloaded in books that they’ve got a whole stack of books they’re just waiting to put in,” Isbell said. “The community’s really embraced that one.”   

Isbell has started a Facebook page for the effort called Little Free Libraries of Brown County, Texas, where interested residents can keep track of the project’s progress. More information is available at www.littlefreelibrary.org.