The book bin may be tiny, but the impact could be huge for students at The University of Southern Mississippi’s DuBard School for Language Disorders who soon will have access to a renowned Little Free Library.
A grant provided by the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi’s national headquarters will enable the University to purchase and install one of the libraries at the DuBard School on the Hattiesburg campus. Dr. Eric Platt, assistant professor of higher education, and Cristin Reynolds, former student vice president of USM’s Phi Kappa Phi chapter, were instrumental in securing the grant.
“The grant idea came about from seeing so many Little Free Libraries spring up around the Hattiesburg community,” said Platt. “After discussing the idea with Cristin, we began to explore the feasibility of the project and whom on the USM campus might benefit from one of the libraries.”
The Little Free Library originated in 2009 when Todd Bol of Hudson, Wis., built a model of a one-room schoolhouse. The model served as a tribute to his mother -- a teacher who loved to read. He filled it with books and put the tiny library on a post in his front yard. He ultimately built several more and gave them away. Each one had a sign that said: FREE BOOKS.
The basic premise of the free library is to take a book and leave one in return. By January of 2015, the total number of registered Little Free Libraries in the world was conservatively estimated to be nearly 25,000. By January of 2016, the total number reached more than 36,000. By June of this year, the total eclipsed 40,000 Libraries worldwide.
Platt notes that a visual source for lending books external to the well-stocked library in the DuBard School would encourage children and parents/guardians to engage in reading together. DuBard School Director Dr. Maureen Martin wholeheartedly concurs.
“Reading is critical to DuBard School students’ growth in communication and academics and providing multiple opportunities for them to access good literature is so important,” said Martin. “The children will be delighted with this new way of accessing and enjoying books. We are most grateful to Dr. Platt and PKP for making this possible.”
Since its establishment in 1967 at Southern Miss, Chapter No. 99 of Phi Kappa Phi has been very successful in garnering grants and awards, which include nine study-abroad grant winners, eight Love of Learning Award winners and seven national fellows. In recent years, the chapter has engaged in events such as book drives to promote literacy among youth and post-secondary preparedness programs titled “Getting into Graduate School.”
Southern Miss already has one Little Free Library on the Hattiesburg campus located at Cook Library. Platt said the dream is to have more of them as an obvious presence at University venues.
“It is my hope that other campus learning centers at USM Hattiesburg and USM Gulf Park will eventually partake in the movement and we will see a proliferation of Little Free Libraries around the Hattiesburg and Long Beach campuses,” said Platt.