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Oak View Mall puts Little Free Library in a vacant storefront

Oak View Mall puts Little Free Library in a vacant storefront

Tanya Prokop spends a couple of hours a day managing the inventory and restocking the pantry, similar to a Little Free Library.

You’ve seen them in front yards across the Omaha metro area.

There’s one at Morning Star Lutheran Church near 84th Street and Broadmoor Drive.

And now there’s a Little Free Library in an unused bay at Oak View Mall.

It’s been there for a couple of months, and it’s being noticed, said Amber Bakken, the mall’s property manager.

“We have received messages on Nextdoor (a neighborhood social networking website) and our social networks mentioning how people appreciate the library,” she said. “We have been very excited about the community’s response.”

Bakken said employees from a nearby jewelry repair shop often see people perusing the books in the library while they wait for their items to be fixed. She’s also seen people sitting in commons areas drinking coffee and reading a bestseller from the library’s shelves.

Such libraries have been popping up worldwide since Little Free Library became a nonprofit organization in 2009. More than 90,000 public book exchanges are registered with the group.

The Oak View location was conceived a few months ago when public libraries in the Omaha area closed because of the pandemic. Staff picked a spot at the mall’s entrance for maximum visibility.

Local artists Maggie Webber and Sharon Manhart created a colorful mural for the space. Then Oak View businesses began to donate books.

Now the library has about 200 books that have been provided not only by businesses, but also by store associates, mall walkers, customers and community groups.

“Each day, new books are added by generous individuals,” Bakken said. “You never know what treasures are left or found.”

Oak View’s library has books for all ages.

The universal theme of Little Free Library is “Take a book. Leave a book.” Bakken said patrons can keep books they find and are encouraged to replace them with books they want others to read, or even spare books from home.

“I think it’s amazing for the community, especially during COVID, when schools have been shut down,” library patron Lydia Johnston said. “The play area at the mall is closed, and I love that it gives my children something to do.”

Bakken said mall management plans to keep the library open as long as it’s supported and being used.

“It’s our hope that this Little Free Library will bring a little more joy, a little more connection and a whole lot more books to our community,” she said.

Photos: Omaha libraries begin to reopen

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Betsie covers a little bit of everything for The World-Herald's Living section, including theater, religion and anything else that might need attention. Phone: 402-444-1267.

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