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By Carmen Ensinger
Neighborhood Sharing Libraries have become all the rage in larger cities where parents are busy and libraries might be far away from the children, but now Carrollton has its very own Neighborhood Sharing Library thanks to a generous young couple.
Jena and Jeffrey Walden got the idea of installing a little Neighborhood Sharing Library while visiting Michigan. However, since they live in tiny little Berdan, they decided to install it at the home of Jena’s sister, Jana Walden, who lives on the corner of Portland Ave. and Cemetery Road.
“We have been going on vacation in Michigan for the past several years and they have a bunch of these little sharing libraries all over up there,” Jena Walden said. “So, this last time when we were on vacation, I saw this one in Walmart and knew I had to grab it and make one for here in Carrollton.”
The Walden’s have four children of their own – Jaret, who is 8, JaLynn, who is 7 and Jackson and Jayla who are both 5.
“They love two read,” Walden said. “My older two are able to read on their own and they live to read to the younger two as well.”
Her children were one of the reasons she wanted to bring the little Neighborhood Sharing Library to Carrollton.
“I would say my kids and my teaching background play a big role in wanting to help spread reading to others,” Walden said. “I taught in Pittsfield before I started my family, so I know how important it is to instill in children a love of reading at an early age.”
The books in the library are for children of all ages, come from a variety of places and change often.
“I have pulled several books from my own stash of books and we are also getting a lot of very good quality donations from people in the community,” Walden said. “I have also bought books from Pharmacy Plus, Boyd’s Closet and online and always look at yard sales. Also, the idea is to take a book, and leave a book, so a person could do that as well.”
In other words, if a child takes a book and falls in love with that book, they do not have to return it.
“A book never has to come back,” Walden said. “We have no checkout system. If a person loves a book, they can keep it, share it with others, or just keep it for themselves. Or, if they have a book they don’t want anymore, they can just leave it for others.”
With school starting, Walden said they plan to put in some back-to-school books and with the holidays just around the corner they will be adding some Halloween and Fall themed books as well in October.
Walden said they try to come into town and check out the library to see if it is being utilized.
“We usually try to make it into town a couple times a week to see if we see a change in the books,” Walden said. “If this goes over well, I would love to add other locations in our town. I also hope people from out of town will check the library out when they are in Carrollton.”
Since the sharing library is not very big, Walden said that they are in the process of trying to figure out how to make a donation box so people can leave more donations of books.
Walden stressed that their little library is in no way meant to take the place of the Public Library in town.
“But we do hope that it will get someone more curious about reading,” she said. “For example, maybe they read a book from a series from the Sharing Library and they go find the rest of the books at the public library. Or maybe they read a book by a certain author and want more books by them.”
Walden said she would love to hear from anyone who has gone to the library.
“I know for certain that a couple of people have visited it because they have posted pictures on social media,” Walden said. “However, I would like for everyone who visits to post if they can. It would be a good way to spread the word about the Sharing Library to others.”
Of course, Walden has devised her own way of advertising the library.
“Each book has a stamp that says ‘My Little Sharing Library – Carrollton, IL’,” Walden says. “My hope with this is to show people how far a book can travel. Either someone from out of town comes by and takes a book or someone from in town takes a book from the library with them out of town and shares it with another library.”
In the future, Walden says she hopes to have surprises in store for the visitors to the library.
“I hope to eventually have little surprises in there, like little book marks, stickers, small puzzles that go with the books, etcetera,” she said. “This, we hope, will help the kids stay motivated and interested in reading and spread their love of reading to someone else.”
Others are following in Walden’s footsteps and plan on installing Neighborhood Sharing Libraries in their own communities.
“I think some people in Greenfield have bought a couple, so I can’t wait for them to get theirs going,” Walden said. “My family and I can’t wait to go check theirs out.”