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Micro libraries for a macro project: BSU students work with city to provide Little Free Libraries

Director Marcia Larson and Eric Nordlum from the Parks and Recreation Department set up books in a Little Free Library on Friday morning at South Shore Park. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 3
From left are BSU students Cooper Hiemark, Raymond Rohl, Jeff Harris and Saige Glaser with Bemidji Parks and Recreation Director Marcia Larson. Submitted photo.2 / 3
Saige Glaser and Jeff Harris work on a Little Free Library during spring semester at BSU for their capstone project. Submitted photo.3 / 3

BEMIDJI—Four BSU seniors finished their academic careers by partnering with the city of Bemidji.

The result are three Little Free Libraries given to the Bemidji Parks and Recreation Department to be placed in the community.

The students, Saige Glaser, Jeff Harris, Cooper Heimark and Raymond Rohl approached the local Parks Commission with their idea, including mockups, said Bemidji Parks and Recreation Director Marcia Larson. "Everyone was really excited, so we said, 'Absolutely.'"

The foursome built the three libraries to be weather resistant so they could be placed in parks and settled on a canoe shape to reflect Bemidji's place in lake country.

"For the capstone class, these students apply what they've learned over the four or five years here," said Mahmoud Al-Odeh, BSU associate professor. "The idea of this project is how we can bring a greater benefit to the community and how we can get involved."

"Dr. Mahmoud had come up with the idea," Rohl said. "He had seen them around town and thought it would be a great way to promote BSU and reading in general throughout the city. He gave us the idea and we ran with it."

The three new libraries are for Carnegie Park, South Shore Park and Cameron Park. They join two Free Little Libraries already in place in Diamond Point Park and Roger Lehmann Park.

"The project was challenging and it stretched our knowledge, but the overall quality stayed in tact," Glaser said. "It took longer than expected, but we wanted to make sure the quality of the project was in place for the public and the city."

The Little Free Libraries concept is nationwide, originating in 2009 in Wisconsin, when Todd Bol built the original free library, and later partnered with the University of Wisconsin to expand the project. The concept is simple: take a book, leave a book. By the end of 2011 there were 400, the next year it was more than 4,000 and today, there are at least 80,000 registered libraries, according to the program's website. Bol died last year.

Larson said after the students contacted the commission, the department helped them register the libraries on the program's website to make them official. Larson called the project a "great partnership."

"We're preparing these students for industry. We need them to be in touch with these types of groups to be able to perform well in their job," Al-Odeh said. "This teaches students teamwork, how to communicate with each other and how to communicate with external organizations. These projects help students build their resume and makes them more employable."

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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