Look around. It’s it a drone? Is it a security camera? No. It’s sort of a birdhouse!
A surprising approach to crime fighting in communities across is popping up across the land. They look like birdhouses, but they are so much more. Police departments, social groups, businesses and individuals are enjoying such wide range of successes with them that the fresh tactic has spread globally to over 60,000 locations in 70-plus countries.
Little Free Libraries is a non-profit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world. Through Little Free Libraries, millions of books are exchanged each year, profoundly increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds.
The U.S. Department of Education says up to 61 percent of low-income families have no books for their children at home. Little Free Libraries are providing books to encourage a love of reading, especially in areas where books are scarce.
“Investing in our youth is the best way to combat crime. When we invest a little bit on the front end, you don’t have to deal with problems later on. I’d heard about Little Free Libraries, and I wanted to institute one here. If the youth can have positive activities like reading and literacy, it makes our job easier, and it’s a lot of fun.” — Eddy Chamberlin, Chattanooga Police Captain
These miniature free libraries have resulted in some positive news and influence in communities. Small businesses report these miniature libraries help attract and keep more customers. Realtors indicate that libraries are attractive to a neighborhood. Other new aspects have originated from this movement:
- Designers, craftsmen and women, architects and artists are creating a new American folk craft by building Little Free Libraries.
- Little Libraries are becoming destinations…for bike and walking tours, family automobile tours of small towns, and geocachers.
- The Libraries function as educational and outreach tools for civic engagement, social and environmental issues.
- They also serve as unique channels through which publishers and authors can distribute their books.
- Local and national organizations and corporations increasingly see Little Free Libraries as good investments to demonstrate corporate social responsibility and do their part for their constituents, neighbors and customers.
According to Little Free Libraries, their book exchanges benefit community law enforcement efforts in four ways:
- Supporting literacy. Little Free Libraries improve book access and thus help improve low literacy rates. Recent research by the Department of Justice shows that low literacy is strongly connected to crime and delinquency; by providing book access, police offers help stop delinquency issues before they start.
- Forging new partnerships. A Little Free Library program can attract new partnerships with community groups and demonstrate a heightened commitment to neighborhoods served.
- Opening the door to additional services. Activities such as book drives, story times, and other events give reasons for officers to interact directly with kids and their parents. In addition to generally promoting public trust, these interactions have led adults to pursue other programs with their local police.
- Providing stories of community service. The color book exchanges and supportive interactions provide opportunities for positive publicity and make for great stories in the press, expanding the good feelings beyond the immediate neighborhood served.