What began as a Girl Scout project has become a source of community pride and participation as Loachapoka residents embrace their new public library and the opportunity to reach out to younger readers in the community.
Thanks to Girl Scout Cadet Kaitlin Connelly of Troop 7098 in Auburn, Loachapoka residents now have free access to books any hour of the day or night at three Loachapoka 24/7 Libraries, located in the small community near Auburn.
Donation boxes are located at Miller's Store and Wilton's Catering (next door to the Loachapoka Post Office), both on Highway 14, and at Crabb's Grocery on Lee Road 188.
Readers do not need money or a library card to access the mailbox-like units and are simply asked to leave a book for use by someone else, if they happen to have one they wish to share.
Connelly's work toward her Silver Award began in June and quickly gained the support of Marcus Crabb, owner of Crabb's Grocery on Lee Road 188, where one of the boxes is located. He and a friend built the first library box that Connelly then allowed children in the 21st Century Learning Initiatives program at Loachapoka Elementary School.
"Every time I told someone about this they were excited about it," Connelly said. "The children were really excited."
Connelly said making the decorations helped the children feel ownership over the boxes and encouraged them to use the books.
"The libraries are aimed to the children, but adult books are also in there," she said. "There are early readers and teen books. Pretty much any book may be in there."
Community support has not only come from the businesses where the boxes now stand, but has also included book and monetary donations from individual community members, plus building supplies from Home Depot and Ace Hardware in Auburn.
The Loachapoka 24/7 Libraries have complemented the new public library which opened just over a year ago and has limited hours from 3-7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They were recently adopted as a part of the library and use a collection of about 200 books that are also now part of the library's collection.
Loachapoka 24/7 Libraries are an adaptation of Little Free Libraries, which has a site at Cary Woods Elementary School in Auburn, but differ because they are associated with the public library.
Kaitlin, daughter of Brian and Cora Connelly of Auburn, is expected to receive her Silver Award in November.
To learn more, visit the Loachapoka 24/7 Libraries Facebook page or contact the Loachapoka Public Library.