About sixteen years ago I drove through the town directly north of where I live, and it was falling apart. I remember visiting the downtown area and thinking how very sad it was that the community was dying. Soon after the mall closed, then the largest factory. Store after store seemed to be toppling. The roads were in bad condition, there was a liter problem, the town was becoming a dilapidated area people shook their heads when talking about, then shrugged their shoulders, asking "whaddya gonna do?"
Well, through a massive coordinated effort between municipal planning, corporate philanthropy, and a lot of vision, that community has been transformed. I frequently marvel at the resurgence of independent business, the thoughtful landscaping, the arts driven initiatives, and the amazing progress that's taken place in this community of some 30k people. But the last time I drove in for the Saturday morning farmers' market, for which they block off the heart of downtown for a live music and dog friendly open air street vending experience, I noticed something that made my heart even happier.
Within less than two blocks I came across two little free libraries. Wow. Right? But it doesn't stop there. Turns out, that within just a few blocks, there are six. Six Little Free Libraries. To me that says that this community cares about rebuilding not just on the outside, but on the inside. They believe in educating as well as employing, and that sends a powerful message to the people who visit the community as well as those who live there. So hat's off to you, Beloit, WI. All in all, Beloit houses sixteen.
To find out more about the Little Free Library program, check out the movement that is revolutionizing communities and access to books. LittleFreeLibrary.org