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The Little Free Libraries scattered around Hattiesburg will see new life on Saturday, Oct. 24, when the United Way of Southeast Mississippi revives the program on Make a Difference Day.

Ali Rogers, the United Way Volunteer Center Director, said the Little Free Libraries are important to the community. People in the area are happy to give back, she said.

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“We're definitely excited (about Make a Difference Day),” said Rogers, who became Volunteer Center Director in February. “And things do look a lot different than what I thought this role would look like as far as the Volunteer Center Director. I really have been super impressed and super proud of people in our community regardless of what they're personally facing or what's been going on there. There has definitely been a huge interest in giving back.”

Little Free Libraries are places where neighbors share their favorite literature and stories. In its basic form, a Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book or two and bring back another book to share.

Because the Little Free Libraries are so accessible, children can get a book even before they can talk. Families get the chance to have a book, which might not be available otherwise.

Having 22 Little Free Libraries around Hattiesburg is great for the residents.

“I think it's one of those things, too, that a lot of people in our community see around the city, but they might not know exactly what it is,” Rogers said. “So, this day would make a difference.”

Exchanging books in the Little Free Libraries gives everyone something different to enjoy, Rogers said.

“If you do have kids, this is a great way to just change up some things; you've read this book for a while, so we can give it back to the community by putting it in this library,” she said. “They can reap the benefit of giving a book themselves as well, giving them ownership to a point. We're making sure that people can use it.”

Rogers has asked United Way board members to help their community Little Free Libraries, but they have also reached farther.

“Some of our board members just sharing on their social media will bring an awareness of what is there,” she said. “We can do that even past Make a Difference Day and continue to involve people in something that is good for the community. So that makes it great.”

Annie Jackson, a United Way board member, said the Little Free Libraries are important during Make a Difference Day.

“I do love the idea because I'm a reader, and I love the Little Free Libraries that are around Hattiesburg,” she said. “”I've seen people go and get books out; it's so great. … I found that in so many families children don't have books, and that just blew my mind because I'm a reader. I want my kids to be reading.”

Jackson sees the early importance for children to read, especially with the third-grade requirement.

“Just to think that a child did not have a book really surprised me,” she said. “So, I love when they started this thing about inspiring kids to read. I love that idea because it expands your mind. They predict that they will drop out of out of school. So, I mean, it's so important. I'm glad that they're really emphasizing this and making books available.”

The City of Hattiesburg in partnership with the Hattiesburg Alliance for Public Art, the Hattiesburg Arts Council, local artists and businesses have joined the Little Free Library.org in their mission to promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exhibits and placing the Little Free Libraries throughout the city.

The Little Free Library locations are: Hattiesburg City Hall, C.E. Roy Community Center, Ben McNair Recreation Center, Hope Park, Dahmer Park, Town Square Park, Train Depot, Hawkins Elementary School, Earl Travillion Elementary School, and Kamper Park, Hattiesburg Public School Administrative Office, Forrest General Hospital, Eureka Museum, Rowan Elementary School, Mobile Street, Trinity Episcopal Church, Edwards Street Fellowship Center, Fieldhouse for the Homeless, MS Center for Legal Services, Keg & Barrel, Pine Street Dog Park, and Hattiesburg Public Library.

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