Southwestern Japan Community Launches 24/7 Outdoor Picture Book Library Initiative

A refurbished old phone booth that has become an outdoor mini-library “seeds of picture books” is seen with organizer Yoshie Hashiba, left, and two young children in Imari, Saga prefecture, October 27, 2021. ( Mainichi / Yoshiyuki Mineshita)

IMARI, Saga – Outdoor, community-run mini-libraries that loan picture books 24 hours a day with no check-out have opened in this southwestern Japanese city.

The name of the initiative translates to “Street Picture Book Boxes: Picture Book Seeds”. Some 270 books in total are kept on unattended shelves in refurbished old phone booths and other structures in eight locations, including parks and parking lots in the Kurogawacho district of Imari, Saga Prefecture.

Anyone can borrow an unlimited number of books for an unlimited time and can return them to any of the eight locations. The local branch of the “uchidoku” (reading at home) project, which promotes book club activities among families, presented the libraries – apparently the first in the prefecture – after a similar initiative in Wakayama prefecture, in western Japan, to improve opportunities for children to easily access books.

According to Imari’s Kurogawa Municipal Community Center, which is the secretariat for the local branch of the project, 90% of the cost of the library’s initiative – some 840,000 yen (about $ 7,400) – is covered by the community. of the prefectural governments of Saga and municipal of Imari. revive subsidies. The organizers painted the old phone booths dark red, made shelves, and bought 140 picture books. Members of the local branch of the Uchidoku Project will periodically tour the eight sites to shuffle and manage the books.

Twenty-six young children and others attended the Oct. 27 opening ceremony at the community center. The head of the local branch of the uchidoku project, Yoichiro Sakita, 70, said in a speech: “Picture book libraries can become symbols to brighten up Kurogawacho and shrines that warm people’s hearts.

The purpose of the uchidoku movement is to encourage the emotional development of children as they read books with the family and discuss their feelings. Many of the people who worked on the Kurogawacho project are members of a local group that reads to children in the library at the community center.

The name of the outdoor mini-library project comes from the hope of the organizers that a fondness for books will grow in the minds of children and adults, then spread like seeds of flowers leaving their fields to produce more. flowers elsewhere.

Yoshie Hashiba, 59, representative of the local reading group, said, “Picture books are lifelong friends who comfort us when we read them. I want people to cherish the books so that they can be read by many others for a long time to come. ”

For book donations and inquiries, contact the Kurogawa Community Center by phone at 0955-27-0001 (in Japanese).

(Japanese original from Yoshiyuki Mineshita, local Karatsu office)

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