HAZARD — Perry County is now home to an official Little Free Library. The ribbon cutting ceremony was held March 7 at the McDonald’s restaurant on the Hazard Bypass. The Little Free Library program helps promote literacy and encourages people of all ages to read by providing a book exchange that is cost free.
Little Free Libraries are structures that come in all sorts of interesting shapes and sizes, where individuals are permitted to take a book or leave a book. Little Free Libraries can be located basically anywhere, such as a park, a neighborhood, a business or a school.
Diana Patula, owner of McDonald’s in Hazard, serves on the Perry County Literacy Council. When Patula found out about the Little Free Library program, she was inspired to create one. The structure is located at the entrance to McDonald’s on the front of the building, which directly faces the bypass, and it is modeled after a landmark from Hazard’s past that many citizens will recognize; the two-story McDonald’s building that was open downtown for several years. The plan is for the bottom level of the structure to eventually hold children’s books, whereas the top level will hold books for older readers.
“I’m hoping this excites the readers; the young and the old,” Diana Patula said prior to the ribbon cutting.
Patula also hopes the Little Free Library at McDonald’s will inspire others in Perry County to expand the program by placing uniquely crafted structures in areas where a lot of people pass by. The effort, according to Patula, can accomplish more than simply promoting literacy. Every Little Free Library must be registered through littlefreelibrary.org. Upon registration, the structure is logged on the Internet with G.P.S., so Little Free Library enthusiasts can find each location as they are traveling. Little Free Library’s presence in Perry County can help attract visitors to the region.
“We hope this can bring people into our area so they can see our great community,” Patula said.
The establishment of Little Free Libraries could indeed draw enthusiasts into Perry County because, as of now, the closest towns to Hazard with officially registered structures are Lexington and Ashland. Little Free Libraries are located around the world, including England and Turkey. Hazard is leading the way with this project in Southeastern Kentucky.
Lee Ann Colwell Gabbard of Save the Children and Kristin Collins of the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky also played key roles in launching the Little Free Library effort in Perry County. Their hard work and dedication has generated excitement throughout the community. Dozens of spectators were present at the McDonald’s ribbon cutting to see Hazard’s first structure, including Grimace of McDonald’s fame. Hazard City Commissioner Susan Brotherton was impressed by the project and discussed the possibility of establishing more registered locations in town with creative themes. Perry County Judge Executive Scott Alexander also attended the ceremony.
“Projects like this play a vital role in community development,” Alexander said, “I want to thank the Patulas and Save the Children for this. Reading is knowledge and knowledge is power.”
The Perry County Public Library came to the event and donated some books for the cause. More information about the Little Free Library program can be found on the website, littlefreelibrary.org. For more information about the Perry County Literacy Council or Little Free Library in Perry County, contact Kristin Collins, firstname.lastname@example.org or Lee Ann Colwell Gabbard, email@example.com.
Sam Neace can be reached at 606-629-3243 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.