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Iowa City Courts Little Free Library Project

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) Iowa City could see a new addition to its literature-friendly atmosphere, in the form of miniature libraries.

Officials with the Little Free Library Project which distributes and encourages small cabinet-sized, outdoor libraries where readers can pick up and drop off books are in discussions with Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature officials to bring the small libraries to Iowa City.

Project co-founder Rick Brooks said that although officials in Marion also are making plans, Iowa City could very well be the first of the project's locations in the state.

"We would love to help launch this," Brooks said. "In a way, this could be the first city in Iowa to join up with the Little Free Library movement."

The Little Free Library Project began in early 2010 with a single free library on the east side of Madison, Wis., and has since expanded to libraries in 22 states and six countries including Germany, Canada and Afghanistan, Brooks said.

He said the program has more than 100 officially registered libraries and 300 to 400 in the world. The group is in pursuit of besting Andrew Carnegie's record of building 2,510 free libraries around the world. Each library, which can hold 20 to 30 books, is protected and promoted by a volunteer, called a Library Steward. Here's how it works: When you borrow a book, replace it with one of your favorites from your own collection.

Although Brooks said cooperation with Iowa City's UNESCO City of Literature could bring 20 to 30 tiny libraries to the area within a year, one Longfellow Neighborhood resident plans to have his own small library built by late May.

Will Thomson, president of the Longfellow Neighborhood Association Board, said he stumbled upon the Little Free Library Project on the Internet and thought it was a great idea to incorporate into his neighborhood.

Members of the Longfellow Neighborhood Association discussed the project during their annual meeting last week, and Thomson said it was met with enthusiasm and interest.

Thomson said he is not sure if his project will be incorporated with the Wisconsin-based program or be a personal endeavor, but as a man who builds museum exhibits, Thomson said the project is a perfect fit.

"I am committed to building a couple of prototypes and installing them in the neighborhood," he said. "I like the idea, and I'm going to build one and see how it works out."

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