The director of Read Jackson County will do anything to put books in people’s hands and get more people reading in the community.

That includes having a library built and installed outside his home and business, B2 Bikes and Boards, on South Chestnut Street in Seymour.

Matt Nicholson and his family are the first to sponsor a “little free library” in the area, but he hopes they won’t be the only ones.

A group of local skateboarders came by to help put up the library last week, Nicholson said.

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The structures are built out of wood and resemble a cross between a mailbox and a birdhouse. But instead, they hold books, which can be borrowed by anyone wanting to read them.

“It’s a simple concept. It’s a borrow a book, leave a book, take a book, whatever you want to do, we don’t care. As long as you’re reading a book,” he said. “All it is is an outdoor bookshelf.”

Being a sponsor, Nicholson is responsible for stocking the library. He has recruited his wife, Zabrina, a Crothersville High School language arts teacher, and their daughters, Jozie, Matte and Sallee, to help.

They have filled the library with a variety of books, including fiction and nonfiction, for children and adults, some from their own personal collections and others that have been donated to Read Jackson County.

Now, Nicholson is looking for people interested in building the libraries and for more people or businesses to sponsor them.

Blueprints and directions for how the little libraries are to be built are available in a digital or paper format, Nicholson said. The libraries can be painted and decorated in any way.

Helping with the initiative is Nancy Franke, a member of Seymour Community Schools board and a teacher at St. Peter’s Lutheran School in Columbus. She first saw little free libraries while on vacation in Florida.

“When I was in Key West earlier this summer, I saw them scattered around the community,” she said. “One particular box was posted outside a restaurant, while another one stood near a local park.”

Franke liked the idea so much, she came back and started talking to others about it. She took pictures of the ones she saw in Florida and posted them on Facebook.

“I thought, ‘What a wonderful idea to have these boxes offered for the community,’” she said.

The conversation started the momentum for Franke, Nicholson and Seymour High School teacher Bob Sexton to put their heads together to figure out how to implement the idea in Seymour.

Franke applied for a grant through Thrivent Financial and was able to get $250 to start building the libraries. Each library costs around $50 to make, so there is enough at this time to make five.

The one in front of B2 Bikes and Boards was made for free by Matt Nicholson’s dad, Bob Nicholson, with a donation of paint from Sherwin-Williams in Seymour.

As a teacher, Franke said, she believes building a solid foundation in reading skills contributes to strong academic abilities in all areas.

“The boxes offer another avenue for people to share their love for reading with others as well as gain new reading experiences,” she said.

She especially likes the idea of little free libraries for adults who are learning English and trying to learn how to read.

“Some people in our community may appreciate just being able to pick up a book and returning it on their own time,” she said.

Sexton suggested the libraries be located near established walking and biking routes and residential areas to foster community spirit.

Nicholson said there are discussions to put one near Chillicen at the downtown pocket park, Steinker Platz. He also thought Kovener’s Korner would be a good location for another one.

Franke said she would like to see more community businesses, those with a high amount of foot traffic in particular, to allow a little free library to be set up outside their business.

Seymour Community Schools Superintendent Rob Hooker has given permission to place little free libraries at any of the schools willing to participate.

“It’s just another way to reach out in a positive direction as we continue to make our community the best it can be,” Franke said.

Get involved

Interested in building or sponsoring a little free library for your business or neighborhood?

Contact Matt Nicholson at Read Jackson County/Plaza Latina at 812-523-8688 or B2 Bikes and Boards at 812-524-7433.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.