- Associated Press - Monday, November 3, 2014

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) - Galveston got a brand new library this month. It’s about two-feet-tall and sits in Bets Anderson’s front yard.

Anderson is the first on the island to embrace the national trend of “little free libraries,” structures built much like large birdhouses that hold shelves of free books open to any passers-by. They’ve been popping up in neighborhoods across the country printed with the movement’s slogan: “Take a Book, Return a Book.”

Anderson first read about little libraries months ago when they began appearing in downtown Houston.

“It just captured my imagination,” Anderson told the Galveston County Daily News (http://bit.ly/1wE7HuC). “I love to read and I always have from the time I was a kid, and I always feel so sorry for kids that don’t get exposed to reading in that way.”

Anderson worked as a community health nurse and nurse educator at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston before retiring; she said studies on the benefits of reading to kids also made her want to bring free books into the neighborhood.

“It’s been my life’s passion to improve my community. I can’t think of better ways than this little library,” said Anderson, who has been active in Galveston for years as a board member of the Galveston Historical Foundation and Art League, among other groups.

Anderson asked her family and friends to substitute Christmas gifts with money last year to help her buy a little library from the official Little Free Library organization, which has helped inspire and organize the trend after the first two little libraries were built in Wisconsin in 2009.

Anderson’s library, located at her home in the 1300 block of Avenue K in the San Jacinto neighborhood, arrived after about two months fully built.

Anderson primed it, painted it gray to match her home and bright red to “spuz it up a little,” and enlisted a friend to help build the post.

When it was finished, she invited neighbors and friends to an opening event where more than 50 people came to see the library. So many left their own books, that now Anderson has stacks 15-high in her home.

John Augelli, Executive Director of the Rosenberg Library, was even present at the little library’s opening day.

“I’d read about the little library movement and was delighted to be invited to the opening of Galveston’s first ever little library to support the cause.” Augelli said.

“I also wanted to check out the competition.”

Anderson said that, though this library is much smaller than the Rosenberg, the two share similar values.

“Both libraries are about encouraging a love of reading and a value in community,” he said.

On opening day Anderson even had Augelli lay his hand on her library to “bless” the new project. “So it’s officially a blessed library now, it’s going to do well,” she said.

In many neighborhoods, one little free library brings many more and others in the San Jacinto neighborhood have already mentioned wanting to join in the movement.

The Little Free Library organization’s original goal was to build 2,510 little free libraries, the number of full-sized libraries built by Andrew Carnegie. As of last year, however, the group reported that there were more than 11,000 little libraries in 52 countries and the trend has only grown since then.

There are many different styles of little libraries with some shaped like astronauts, phone booths or famous buildings.

Ready-made little libraries bought from the organization can range from simple $200 boxes to elaborate $800 hand-carved designs. Many owners build their own, however, or opt for even thriftier options refashioning old mailboxes, recycled appliances or a kid’s wagon to hold the books.

On Tiki Island, two little free libraries, were recently built near a playground: one filled with adult books and the other called “Tiki Kids,” built especially for children’s books. Tiki Island resident and retired Clear High teacher, Fern Martin along with her friend Larry Downhour, a retired Clear Lake High shop teacher, built the tiny libraries and took donations of books for the community to share, according to a community newsletter.

Just like Tiki Island’s park, other public spaces across the country are making their own little libraries including “real” libraries, hospitals, schools and restaurants.

Bets Anderson hopes that her library will inspire that more of these projects come to the island soon.

“My hope is that one day there will be one on every corner,” Anderson said. “That would just be wonderful.”

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Information from: The Galveston County Daily News, http://www.galvnews.com

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