PASCAGOULA -- Little Free Libraries are going up all over Pascagoula.
They've been built, they're going to be painted cute and they should be installed by mid-December.
They will go up in parks and near apartment complexes as well as a grocery, a ball park and the city's public gym.
Five women came together and made it happen: Amy Brandenstein with Chevron, book store owner Tracy Jackson-Wilson, county planning director Michele Coats, Martha Gallahue with Sprint and Heather Wiggins with Alion Science & Technology.
"It's our Christmas gift to the city," Coats said.
The idea is to make books available to children and people who can't get to the library easily, for one reason or another.
The little libraries are twice the size of a large bird house and hold about a dozen books for children and adults. The books in them will be free for the taking. And anyone who wants to contribute can bring books to Whimsy Books & Toys, Jackson-Wilson's business, just south of the railroad tracks on Pascagoula Street.
Making it happen
On Thursday, the women helped Pascagoula-Gautier School District employees unload the unpainted libraries.
School maintenance carpenter Benjamin Collins and high school carpentry students built them, attached each one to a post and embedded the posts in containers filled with concrete. The libraries are portable, but they weigh about 80 pounds each, so they are likely to stay where they are placed.
The women came to the idea after Gallahue made a presentation to the Chamber of Commerce and mentioned Little Free Libraries.
Gallahue says that in mid-town Mobile, people have them built into their fences so walkers can pick up a book. Brandenstein had seen one in Athens, Ohio. The others had heard about them or looked them up online.
"We decided, we can totally do this," Jackson-Wilson said.
Making a difference
"There are areas of the city with dense populations of kids that don't have a library card," Jackson-Wilson said. "We can preach read all day long to children, but what we want to do is put books in their hands, get books into the community."
She pointed out that 14 percent of the population in Pascagoula has English as a second language. And it takes a Social Security card to get a public library card.
The women have asked publishers to donate seconds and samples. The public library has offered to donate books left over from the annual book sale. The project is collecting "gently used books."
Brandenstein said, "One of the biggest challenges in any community is for families without transportation to go to the library."
One little library is slated for the 200-unit Cambridge Park Apartments on Short Cut Road.
"I know a lot of these kids can't go to the library," said Manager Rhea Chavis. "I think this is wonderful for the community."
Chavis said she will keep their Little Free Library in the apartment office where she and the staff can monitor it and help the children make choices.
The libraries also will go up at Scranton's restaurant, Jerry Lee's grocery, Pine Street Park, Beach Park, Pinecrest subdivision entrance, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, the fire station near Cherokee Elementary, the Recreation Center gym on Pascagoula Street, the city ball park on Tucker Street and a church (still be be announced) on Chicot Road.
The plan is to have the idea catch on and for businesses and residents to build their own little libraries in Pascagoula and other towns. There are already three at homes in Ocean Springs.
The Pascagoula women are set to go before the City Council on Tuesday to let city leaders know the plan and get their blessing.
A business in Pascagoula, Crazy B's coffee shop on Market Street, has expressed an interest in building one -- a portable library that looks like a coffee mug.
"Once people see them," Gallahue said, "they'll want one too."