It’s been five years since the first Little Free Library – the pint-size book collections most often found in front of local homes – sprouted in Brookfield. Since then about a half dozen little libraries have popped up, with the latest blooming in an unexpected place.
Last week, a very functional blue-and-black Little Free Library perched atop a sturdy, white four-legged base went up outside the entrance of the Brookfield Police Department on the east side of the village hall, 8820 Brookfield Ave.
The library structure itself was one of 100 awarded by Little Free Library to police departments nationwide as part of the organization’s Kids, Community and Cops Program to provide a positive way for police to interact with the community at large and kids in particular.
The program, according to the organization, supports literacy, forges partnerships between community agencies and residents, affords opportunities for community service and provides opportunities for additional services like books drives and story times – interactions kids might not otherwise have with police.
“When parents go to a station to conduct police business, the Little Free Library can provide an upbeat distraction and a positive reinforcement of reading habits,” the Little Free Library’s website states.
Lt. James Mihalik said he learned about the Kids, Community and Cops Program last year when a friend shared a Facebook post with him. He followed up with the organization and Brookfield was selected as one of the 100 departments to receive a library structure along with a box of six books.
“My wife was a teacher for 10 years, and in the department about a quarter of the spouses are involved in education of some sort,” Mihalik said. “I read to my four kids every day.”
In addition to Milhalik’s family adding books to the library’s collection, other officers’ families pitched in as well as the Brookfield Recreation Department. Mihalik has also reached out to the Brookfield Public Library, who he said is interested in participating in a book exchange with the police department’s Little Free Library.
Mihalik said he’s also approaching local schools to see what books they’re having their students read to make those titles available to the public as well.
“We’re trying to cover different age groups, trying to manage a bit of a range,” Mihalik said.
Mihalik said oftentimes families will come to the police department to file a report or for other business and sometimes bring kids along with them. In the past, police have given kids coloring books for kids to entertain themselves while waiting for their parents.
“I thought it’d be nice to say, ‘Go grab a book,'” Mihalik said, adding that the Little Free Library would also be a great resource for someone wanting to read something while relaxing during a visit to Kiwanis Park, next door.
Anyone can borrow a book from the Little Free Library, and while you don’t have to return it, you can. Or, maybe you’d like to donate a book in its place if you have a spare lying round the house.
Mihalik said in the future he may add a binder where people can jot down title suggestions for the Little Free Library.
“It’s another way to engage with the community,” Mihalik said.