Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
VICTORIA, Texas (AP) — Walkers and cyclists on the Lone Tree Creek Hike and Bike Trail may notice a new addition on the 4-mile path.
It's not a birdhouse. It's not a mailbox. It's a little, free library.
The cedar box is stuffed with books by Dean Koontz and Nicholas Sparks and titles such as "The Fault in our Stars," ''Gone Girl," and "Legend," all free for the taking.
While the library is quaint in size and appearance, Randi Furman, the woman behind the miniature book collection, is part of a burgeoning global movement aimed at sharing literacy.
The concept for Little Free Library started six years ago in the Midwest, and now includes thousands of registered libraries across the world. The library works on an honor system and people can take and leave books as they please, with no penalties or late fees and no strings attached.
"I like books, and I like people to like books," Furman told The Victoria Advocate (http://bit.ly/1KlkjRh).
Her library is the first of its kind in Victoria, and she hopes it's the start of a new movement to encourage reading.
"I just want to put books in people's hands," Furman said. "I want to share the love of reading."
Furman, 33, has always been a bookworm.
She grew up on Roald Dahl books and now makes a living spreading the joys of good stories as an elementary school and junior high librarian in Port Lavaca.
When she first heard about the miniature libraries during an industry conference in Austin, she knew it was a project Victoria could use.
"I thought they were the coolest things ever," she said. "Since my house is backed up to the trail, I thought it would be perfect."
She stocked the tiny library with several titles opened it to the public Monday.
The goal is to have it become self-sustaining.
"I want kids to be excited to see what's there," she said. "I just want it to bring a sense of community with people coming together and having a tangible book in their hands."
Jim McCulloch, a 29-year-old respiratory therapist, isn't a dedicated book reader like Furman, but that didn't stop him from pitching in to build the tiny library.
"I'd never heard of it, but I thought it was a cool idea," McCulloch said.
He envisions lining the entire fence at the Lone Tree Creek Hike and Bike Trail with little libraries and can imagine them at Riverside Park or Ethel Lee Tracy Park, places where there is a constant flow of adults and families.
"I just hope people use it," he said.
Tod Bol of Hudson, Wis., started the Little Free Library project in 2009
Bol was inspired by Andrew Carnegie, who supported 2,509 free public libraries around the turn of the 19th to 20th century including those still standing in Franklin, Ballinger, Jefferson and Tyler
The official motto is "Take a Book, Return a Book"
To date there are more than 25,000 Little Free Libraries across the world, represented in 50 states and more than 70 countries.
Little Free Library aims to grow to 50,000 libraries worldwide by 2017
Not everything is destined for a happy ending, though, and vandalism is a very real possibility.
A Houston burglar ransacked and destroyed a little library last November at a woman's home in the Heights District.
In Seattle, preschool students rallied after their Little Free Library was torched a few weeks ago.
"We know it's a possibility," McCulloch said. "Hopefully it won't come down to that. I don't see a reason why somebody would intentionally go after it."
Furman isn't as concerned.
"There are so many high school kids who use the trail for walking to or from school," Furman said. "I heard the other day, a kid on a skateboard took three. Maybe he'd never go to his school library, but if he saw something interesting here, maybe he'll read it."
Information from: The Victoria Advocate, http://www.victoriaadvocate.com
Editor's note: This is an AP Member Exchange shared by The Victoria Advocate.