EDWARDSVILLE - Imagine a "take a penny, leave a penny" dish, but instead it's full of books.
That's what Edwardsville Township Park has now, thanks to two sisters from Glen Carbon.
Erika Obrecht read a magazine article about Little Free Library, a national nonprofit organization establishing handcrafted, freestanding structures that hold books for the public. Designed to look like a one-room schoolhouse, they are located in coffee shops, community centers, parks and streets around the nation.
"There are tens of thousands across the country and not a single one in Madison County," Obrecht said. "My sister and I thought it was a chance to do a project with our daughters."
So Obrecht and Erin Anderson began asking people for donations of money and books. They raised enough to buy the library and they have already gathered 300 books. Edwardsville Township agreed to provide space for the library in the park affectionately known as Airplane Park, where it will be dedicated Saturday.
"Everybody's been so helpful," Obrecht said. "Erin and I were the facilitators, but everyone fell in love with the idea."
Anyone is welcome to take a book or two, and can return them or share a different book. For Obrecht, it's about promoting a sense of community as well as literacy and reading.
"My daughter is learning to read, and this excites her and makes her want to read more," Obrecht said "Both me and my sister are raising our families to live an open-handed life, to think about other people and be giving people. We're trying to model that to them."
Township Supervisor Frank Miles commended Obrecht and Anderson and their daughters for coming up with the idea, and pointed out that any other community could establish a Little Free Library as well.
"This is another great example of how this community works: it's not the government, the city, the village or the township that makes this stuff happen. It is our people," Miles said.
The Little Free Library started in Wisconsin, when a man built the first toy-size schoolhouse as a tribute to his schoolteacher mother. He filled it with books and installed it on a post outside his home in 2009. It is now an international nonprofit organization, helping communities build Little Free Libraries everywhere.
"Their influence was Andrew Carnegie, a steel magnate from the east, who financed the construction of 2,500 public libraries across the United States over 100 years ago," Miles said. "Edwardsville's own public library is one of these facilities. It's a great concept. Children choose a book and leave one of their own."
The Little Free Library will be dedicated at 11 am. in Township Park, near the new Boundless Playground and recently constructed Rotary Club Playground.
Obrecht said Happy Up Toys, formerly known as Once Upon a Toy, will be at the event and giving away toys. Afterwords Books, which has also donated books to the project, will be there as well.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2507.