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Ruritan Club Provides Little Free Libraries for Deep Gap Community

Deep Gap Ruritan Club has joined the world’s largest book-sharing movement by providing Little Free Libraries in and around its community. Expressing their love for the written word, club members are pictured here with their most recent little library creation, soon to be placed in a prominent location in the community. Photo by Sherrie Norris

By Sherrie Norris

In a continued effort to serve their community, members of the Deep Gap Ruritan Club have recently joined thousands of other groups and individuals in what has become known as the world’s largest book-sharing movement.

While Little Free Libraries have begun springing up around the globe, it is only natural for the compassionate club representing the High Country, and in particular, the eastern section of Watauga County, to jump on board and help spread the love for reading in and around its neighborhood.

Little Free Library, like Ruritan, is a nonprofit organization, and is described as one that “inspires a love of reading, builds community and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges.”

Since its inception nearly seven years ago, millions of books have been exchanged each year, profoundly increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds.

According to the organization’s website, increasing access to books for youngsters is making a difference, especially among low-income families who do not have age-appropriate books for their kids at home. The same goes for adults who love to read, but might not be able to afford to buy books or have access to a nearby public library.

Deep Gap’s latest offering to the community is now among the estimated 75,000 little libraries in 88 countries, including Pakistan, Japan, Australia, the Netherlands and beyond.

It all started in 2009 when Todd H. Bol, now deceased, built the first Little Free Library in Hudson, Wisconsin, and with Rick Brooks of Madison, Wisconsin, cofounded the Little Free Library nonprofit organization in 2012. Bol served as executive director until October 2018, when he died of complications of pancreatic cancer.

Shortly before his death at age 62, Bol was quoted to say, “I really believe in a Little Free Library on every block and a book in every hand. I believe people can fix their neighborhoods, fix their communities, develop systems of sharing, learn from each other, and see that they have a better place on this planet to live.”

His philosophy was close to that of Ruritan National, as expressed through the work of its clubs, including the one in Deep Gap. It’s all about community service, said its members, who work together to provide unique opportunities for their neighbors.

Whether helping to pay medical or heating bills, providing Christmas gifts for area children, completing beautification projects or supporting other worthy causes, Deep Gap Ruritan is always ready to lend a helping hand, said its president, Billie Rogers.

“Our group at Deep Gap Ruritan Club is constantly thinking of ways to support and enhance our community,” Rogers said. “We host our steak dinner fundraiser each year (in June) so that we can, in turn, help those in need, and to support projects that make the community we live in a better place. When this recent opportunity came up, we saw it as a way to extend our community service and to help even more people of all ages.”

Participation in the Little Library is the club’s latest project, and is receiving positive feedback from community members, added Rogers.

It’s thanks, in part, to several club members, Rogers said, who learned about the Little Free Library movement, brought it before the club for discussion and approval, and then set out to make it happen.

Retired school librarian, Kathy Idol, along with retired school teacher, Joan Hampton, and fellow club members Wayne and Elaine Davis spearheaded the project; along with the Davis’ neighbor, Jim Keener, who helped design and construct the little libraries, the suggestion became a reality.

Their first little library was made, ironically perhaps, from a book shelf discovered at Hebron Colony Thrift Store, which was transformed to meet suggested specifications. “From there, we just measured, cut and constructed wood to make the other two,” said Elaine Davis.

Three of the little libraries have now been completed for about the estimated cost of one, thanks to volunteer assistance and innovation.

Currently two of the miniature libraries have been placed in strategic locations around Deep Gap: one at Deep Gap Post Office (along with a bench for the reader’s convenience), and another at de la Cruz Farms. The third placement is currently pending.

Davis explained that the project’s success works on the premise that each time a book is taken, another one is replaced, either by the reader, or by other sources. “We’ve been very fortunate to work with Laurel Springs Baptist Church, as well as Watauga County Public Library, both of which have been very generous to provide books for our little libraries.”

Davis added that the Brooks family, which owns and operates de la Cruz Farm, helps to monitor and maintain the libraries on a regular basis.

“It’s just our way of making sure people have the opportunity to read books, if they so desire,” Davis concluded.

Deep Gap Ruritan would like to thank all those who have helped make the library project a success, including the aforementioned, as well as Creative Printing in West Jefferson for providing graphic design and labels.

For more information about how you or your community group can participate in the little library project, visit: www.littlefreelibrary.org.

To learn more about Deep Gap Ruritan, contact one of the members named above or visit a monthly meeting at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month. Meetings are held in the upper level of Deep Gap Fire Department. New members with a love for community service are always welcomed.