Imagine if you had little to no access to any sort of reading materials. No books, magazines, newspapers, Kindles, articles …

For many of us, it’s almost unfathomable. Personally, I can’t imagine a life without books and constantly having a stack of new reading materials. Unfortunately, a life without literacy, books and other reading resources is all too common for many people. 

Book Desert: an area where printed books and other reading materials are difficult to access (whether that be borrowing, purchasing, rereading) especially without access to an automobile. 

Some experts state that book deserts are often linked to low-income and poverty stricken areas, while others express that it is typically a combination of issues such as geography, language and even number of books in a single home. A person’s location in their community can greatly affect how easily they can access reading materials. If you don’t live anywhere near a library, shopping areas, schools, how much access do you really have to literacy resources? And if you live rurally? It is common knowledge that economic status is directly linked to living and housing locations. Many economically disadvantaged neighborhoods are less inclined to be near plentiful shopping and other resources. Language also plays a factor. Here in the U.S., if a person does not speak English, their reading resources are greatly lessened. They may only be able to find literacy materials in their language within their neighborhood (if they live in a large enough city), from family members or from a limited library section, meaning they will exhaust their resources quickly. 

Children are extremely at risk if they live in a book desert, especially if there are not any books at home. Extensive research has shown that although children read throughout the day at school, this is simply not enough during their developmental process. They must practice this skill at home on a regular basis in order to maintain and grow their literacy abilities. A lack of literacy materials can have consequences in child development such as struggling academically, lowered reading proficiency as well as increasing the likelihood of dropping out of high school.

So what are we doing about it? 

Book Cart in the Salina Regional Health Center Lobby

Salina Public Library has teamed up with community members to make sure that people across Salina have access to books and reading even if they can’t make it to the library or a bookstore. Free Little Libraries are neighborhood book exchanges often located on book carts, wooden containers, mailbox like structures, baskets, along with other areas and small structures, typically in easily accessible, public locations. At any of the locations deemed a Little Free Library, community members can take or borrow any of the stocked books but are also requested to share one of their books they no longer read. This way, citizens not only receive the gift of reading but give the gift as well. The motto being: Take a book, share a book. 

These free libraries allow greater access to books and reading and are resources for those that are homebound, have difficulty accessing transportation, those who face financial difficulties, children unable to access the library or bookstores, etc. 

A majority of these libraries are part of a larger initiative to promote literacy, share the love of reading and create community comradery. Little Free Library is an international organization founded in 2009 by Todd Bol and Rick Brooks in Hudon, Wis. The first Little Free Library was created to promote reading and as a way to honor Bol’s mother, a retired school teacher and avid reader. Today, the nonprofit has more than 90,000 registered libraries in over 90 countries with millions of books being exchanged every year.

Placed around town, Salina Public Library along with other community members have established more than 10 Little Free Libraries. Each one is marked with a plaque and it’s unique charter number. You can find all of our libraries as well as any registered Little Free Library on the organization’s world map. 

Our little free libraries, along with many others, would not be possible without the support of citizens. From book donations to Little Free Library Adopters and caretakers, we are grateful to community members who have stepped up to help us care for our libraries and who feel it’s important to pass along their love of reading. Below I have listed our little libraries (click to find their location) our awesome volunteers who have adopted them. 

Top: YMCA, Salina Regional Airport, Kansas Wesleyan
Bottom: Salina Area Technical College, Centennial Park, Hawley Park

Sunset Park Park ~ Aimee Irlbeck

Kansas Wesleyan University (corner of Highland and Claflin near the bus stop)~ Gentry McClure

YMCA ~ Sharon Zaire

Jerry Ivey Memorial Park ~ Daniel Eckhoff

Salina Regional Health Center (a book cart in the main lobby) ~ Beth Predergast

Hawthorne Park ~ Jerri Phillips

Salina Area Technical College ~ Jo Martin

Centennial Park ~ Teresa Rundell 

Steve Hawley Park ~ Linda Reynolds

Salina Regional Airport (a book cart located in the main lobby) ~ K.T. Taylor

If you’re interested in contributing to the libraries, Salina Public Library is always accepting book donations. Make sure to check out a Little Free Library in your neighborhood or visit the Salina Public Library to check out a new book today! Take a book, share a book, and enjoy all the possibilities of reading!