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Seven city parks have the little free libraries now, with more to come, city officials say.

PMG PHOTO: GEOFF PURSINGER - Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway talks to two young boys about a new library kiosk at Orenco Woods Nature Park. The kiosks are popping up at several Hillsboro parks as a way to promote reading. While many tout the importance of thinking big, Hillsboro's libraries are thinking small.

Very small.

On Thursday, July 25, the Hillsboro Public Library unveiled a slew of new "tiny branch libraries," in seven parks across the city. The small book kiosks are part of the Little Free Library book exchange movement, a collection of book kiosks that have popped up across the country over the last several years.

The rules are simple, according to Hillsboro Library spokeswoman Mary Loftin: See a book you like? Take it home. Have a book you're finished with? Drop it off at the tiny depositories for others to enjoy.

"This is a way for the library to branch out, no pun intended," Loftin said. "We're going to where the people are. Not everybody can get to us, so by taking the library to the parks, we're able to reach more people."

The kiosks are staffed by volunteers who will keep the park kiosks stacked with books.

Loftin said books taken from the tiny libraries aren't standard library books and don't have to be returned.

"It's on the honor system," Loftin said. "Take a book and keep it as long as you'd like."

Loftin said because the tiny book dispensers aren't checked by librarians, library patrons should not return overdue library items to the kiosks.

"We don't want people returning their true library books to one of the tiny locations," Loftin said. "They should do that at an actual branch."

Books for the tiny kiosks will be provided by the Friends of the Hillsboro Public Library, a nonprofit.

Hillsboro Tiny Branches are located at the following city parks:

Bagley Park, 201 N.E. Jackson St.

Evergreen Park, 2615 N.W. 194th Terrace

Frances Street Park, 6205 S.E.Frances St.

McKinney Park, 375 N.W. Dennis Ave.

Orenco Woods Nature Park , 7100 N.E. Birch St.

Turner Creek Park , 789 S.E. 31st St.

Walnut Street Park , 1717 SE Walnut St.

Library assistant Tim Peterson said the program is aimed at helping anyone who can't regularly get to the library's two branches on Brookwood Avenue and at Shute Park.

"The idea is that somebody can take a book home and fall asleep with it in their lap," Peterson said. "That's their book, and nobody else's. There's something powerful about that. We wanted to give as much access as possible and let people know we are their library. Someone people can't get to us easily. Some don't have a permanent address and can't get a library card."

On Thursday, Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway pulled out a pair of tiny scissors to cut the ribbon on the Tiny Branches kiosk at Orenco Woods Nature Park.

"This creates more community," Callaway said. "This creates a community around lovers of knowledge and lovers of books and lovers of parks. Those are good people."

Callaway said libraries and parks go hand in hand.

"What's that old saying? From tiny acorns mighty oaks grow? Well from these little branches, the limbs on the tree of knowledge grow strong and its roots grow deeper," Callaway said. "I love that it's a little branch of the library, but it's also a little branch on the tree of knowledge."

Callaway made the first donation to the Orenco Woods book kiosk after the ribbon cutting, placing a copy of "From a Name to a Number" — the autobiography of Holocaust survivor and Orenco resident Alter Wiener — inside for others to read and reflect on. Wiener, 92, died in December after he was struck by a car a mile from the park.

Callaway said Wiener's story of perseverance during the Holocaust is one everyone in Hillsboro should read.

"He is such an important part of our community," Callaway said, choking back tears. "And he will continue to be, as long as we remember his story and share his story and act on his story."

More tiny branches are expected at other Hillsboro parks in the months to come.

Loftin said Hillsboro's libraries are constantly thinking "outside of the box." In addition to its two main branches, the library also operates a Book-O-Mat vending machine at Hillsboro Civic Center Plaza in downtown, and its "Library on the Loose" bookmobile, which travels to city parks and migrant camps in the area dispensing books.



By Geoff Pursinger
Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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