Building Community One Book at a Time in Wilkinson County

All of the children and families in Wilkinson County will soon have access to a wide-scale free book exchange, as 34 Little Free Libraries open throughout the community on Saturday, June 3. One of the new locations will be unveiled that day live on Facebook at 11 a.m. during the Summer Reading Fest at Irwinton Park, which begins at 10 a.m.

The event aims to make literacy fun by kicking off summer programming in the county. It’s co-hosted by the Wilkinson County UGA Extension, Wilkinson County 4-H, Wilkinson County Family Connection, and Wilkinson County Library East.

Dwayne Sanders, the Wilkinson County UGA Extension Office agent and coordinator, said utilizing social media is a great way to spread the word to a wider audience. “We wanted to do a real-time streaming of the event so that citizens with barriers like transportation or time constraints can watch the event in their own time,” he said.

The collection of Little Free Libraries began as a community service project for the local 4-H. It grew into a larger joint effort once partners affiliated with Wilkinson County Family Connection started a conversation about their collective literacy goals for the county.

A planning committee mapped out the neighborhoods with the largest youth populations in each of Wilkinson County’s cities of Allentown, Danville, Gordon, Irwinton, Ivey, McIntyre, and Toomsboro—and that’s where the Little Free Libraries will reside.

“We’re building our community one book at a time,” said Sanders. “It’s important to make sure that each entity involved is motivated by the impact the group can make on the community—not just how the project can benefit the entity alone.”

Several local businesses have contributed to the project’s success by coming together to tick each box needed to open the freestanding libraries. For instance, the Macon Telegraph donated newspaper racks to store the books, while McIntyre Collision Center painted and treated the racks.

A local industry, BASF, covered the registration fees for all of the Little Free Libraries. The corporation is also encouraging employees to go online and purchase specific books for the libraries.

“BASF understands how important reading literacy is to shaping a child’s future educational and career opportunities,” said Keith Brooks, BASF’s Site Director of Middle Georgia. “We strongly support Wilkinson County Family Connection’s efforts to improve the literacy rates of children in the community through the Little Free Libraries campaign. BASF will continue to work with community partners to improve opportunities for residents in our area.”

“It is so exciting to have this kind of support,” said Dianne Orr, the Collaborative’s coordinator. “Our community partners have a mission to increase literacy, so it’s to everyone’s benefit to support literacy programs. My personal slogan is that the more literate our individual citizens, the more successful our county.”

For more information about the Summer Reading Fest, contact Sanders at 478-946-2367.