January 11, 2017

Eau Claire, Wisconsin is about to get some reading done on the bus


Like mobile Little Free Libraries, city buses in Eau Claire, Wisconsin will soon be set up with books that anyone can read and even bring home.

As early as late spring, all 22 city buses could be outfitted with special racks filled with books that people can read on the ride or bring home if they want to — free of charge. Consider it a road-bound riff on the Little Free Library movement that began in Hudson a few years ago and spread throughout Wisconsin and the world, with literally thousands of book-filled boxes springing up at homes, businesses, and schools. In this case, the free books will be close at hand for people who rely on city buses for their transportation.

Eierman compared the Books on Buses effort to the Book Bike the library launched last year, although this project will be less expensive and complex than that pedal-powered mobile library. While items checked out from the Book Bike have to be returned to the library, books from the buses will be free to keep.

The idea originally came from City Councilwoman Catherine Emmanuelle, who was impressed by a similar program in Albequerque. When Pamela Westby, the then-new director of the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in Eau Claire, asked Emmanuelle if she had any ideas for the library, Books on Buses began to take shape.

Shelly Collins-Fuerbringer, youth services manager at the library, says the library is pursuing a small grant to pay for book racks. Other than that, the program should have minimal startup costs, in part because she expects books to come from donations or from volumes discarded from the library’s collection. While the project is still in the planning stages, it’s already received support from the necessary parts of city government.

“I’m really excited about it,” Collins-Fuerbringer says. “I think it’s going to be a great program. With the Book Bike, I think our goal was to surprise people, and I think this will surprise people.”



Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.