By Ava Hiniker
Photos Courtesy of the City of Peoria
To many of us, there are few things more magical and enticing than a good book. Now, thanks to the Little Free Library organization, Peoria residents—especially young readers—can discover new stories every day through the city’s new little free libraries.
Little Free Library is a nationwide, nonprofit organization determined to strengthen communities through the creation of public book exchanges. With over 100,000 little libraries across the nation, it was only a matter of time before this movement spread throughout the Valley. With the help of the city of Peoria, the What’s Happen’n Art Movement, and the Peoria Public Library, Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem Vicki Hunt led the initiative to introduce eight little free libraries to Peoria residents.
“I spent 26 years prior to politics as a high school English teacher so this really has been a passion project for me,” says Hunt. “By encouraging kids to make use of the little libraries, this has been a great way of working toward my goal of promoting literacy, one book at a time.”
While the little libraries feature titles for youth, they also have books geared toward all readers.
The little libraries are lovingly crafted boxes and cases set up across the city. Publicly available for anyone who wishes to use them, visitors are encouraged to search inside the libraries for a book of their choosing to take home. In return, they will also leave a book of their own within the library for someone else to appreciate later, allowing the cycle to continue all over again. This ensures that there never is a shortage of new and exciting stories for readers while also promoting sharing and unity throughout the community. With there always being something new and exciting in these little libraries, readers are always welcome to come back for more whenever they finish a book.
The What’s Happen’n Art Movement, or WHAM, was tasked with taking these specialized little library boxes and making them their own. With an extra pinch of pizzazz through painted designs and colorful characters, the WHAM youth groups were able to give each adorable library its own vibrant personality. The Peoria Public Library also worked to provide the first set of books for each library box. With books for all ages and tales of all genres, the library helped to send fantastic stories into homes across the city.
“I find that the little libraries placed in neighborhoods are able to add a sense of community to the folks who live there,” says Hunt. “Whether they’re around bus stations, shopping malls, or private homes, these free little libraries make book acquisition easy for everyone.”
To learn more about the Little Free Library organization, visit littlefreelibrary.org. For more information on Peoria’s free little libraries, call