2nd Little Library Prize highlights art, literacy

The Detroit News

Artists are gearing up for a competition aimed at highlight a movement to add free libraries to neighborhoods across southeast Michigan.

The second annual Little Library Prize is slated to be on display over Labor Day weekend at the Michigan State Fair.

The contest draws artists from across the region, including Ann Arbor and Saginaw, who put their work on a Little Free Library to win cash prizes. The public is asked to vote on the entries on the organization's Facebook page, Detroit Little Libraries, through Labor Day. 

The Little Free Library is a “take-a-book, leave-a-book” movement that launched in Wisconsin in 2009 and eventually reached Detroit. The effort involves placing a dollhouse-sized container outside a house or in a public space such as a park and filling it with books anyone can take, read and keep.

The local campaign, coordinated by Detroit News reporter Kim Kozlowski, has worked with partners to install more than 300 Little Free Libraries in front of city homes, nonprofits, faith-based institutions, small businesses, community farms, health care centers and city parks.

Last year, Detroit Little Libraries hosted the inaugural Little Library Prize, which is patterned after the annual ArtPrize competition in Grand Rapids. Through the event, some 25 community gardens throughout Detroit became stewards of a decorated Little Free Library, officials said.

For the second Library Prize, coordinators are working with several artists from the the Art Experience. The Pontiac-based group works with people who have developmental disabilities, at-risk youth, adults recovering from substance abuse or mental illness, as well as students with no arts programs at school.

After the event, the free libraries are slated to be given away to sites in Detroit, Pontiac and Flint to promote reading.

Meanwhile, Detroit city officials also are trying to work the free libraries into 40 city parks it plans to renovate over the next 18 months since residents called for them in community planning meetings, according to the group.

Detroit Little Libraries also is nearly done installing the pieces in front of all 108 Detroit Public Schools Community District schools.