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Author-launched effort aims to install Little Free Library in every Kentucky county courthouse


A Kentucky native author is spearheading an effort to get a Little Free Library installed in every county courthouse in the Commonwealth.

Kim Michele Richardson, author of the New York Times bestselling book The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, is underwriting the initiative called Courthouses Reading Across Kentucky & Beyond. Her 2019 novel follows an eastern Kentucky woman’s work during the Great Depression with the Pack Horse Library Initiative, a program that sent librarians to remote parts of the Appalachian Mountains by horse in the years during and after the Great Depression.

Courtesy Kim Michele Richardson

Richardson said the idea to put Little Free Libraries – free exchange boxes where anyone can take or leave a book – in Kentucky courthouses combines her love for her home state with her literacy advocacy work, which she also spotlights in her writing.

“I think that underwriting this new program allowed me to honor the legacy of the brave Kentucky packhorse sisters,” she said.

Last year, the Jefferson County Judicial Center established two Little Free Libraries in Richardson’s honor. Soon after, the author said she heard from several appellate and state supreme court judges – including some from outside the state – who were inspired by Book Woman to donate hundreds of books to those libraries.

Those gifts inspired Richardson to work with Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Susan Schultz Gibson – whom she called a fierce literacy advocate – to spread the movement to other courthouses across Kentucky. So far, Richardson said courthouses in 19 counties have set up Little Free Libraries through the initiative.

The author said putting these book exchanges in county courthouses can help get books into the hands of people who may not have the means to acquire them on their own.

“I think the biggest thing was those who pass through the courthouse doors are so economically oppressed and suffering hardships already. So to have this precious gift, you just can’t imagine,” she said. “Even some of the people working in the courthouse, they don't have the luxury of being able to choose a new book for themselves, or a child. And I just thought this is how books change lives, and this is the power of books.”

Richardson added that the movement could also help – like her characters – to bring more books to rural parts of the Commonwealth, where some of those institutions have seen decreases in funding in recent years.

In addition to getting Little Free Libraries set up across Kentucky, Richardson hopes to eventually spread the program beyond the state’s borders. She said she is currently working with judges in Indiana to get a similar program started in the Hoosier State, and has also been in touch with people from Ohio.

Those looking to support the Courthouses Reading Across Kentucky & Beyond initiative can contact the author through her website.

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