In my hunt for finding innovative community solutions, one common theme keeps surfacing: Libraries.
The popular Little Free Library has made it possible for people to borrow a book 24/7/365 for more than a decade. This simple solution is small but mighty, with more than 90,000 registered libraries in 91 countries throughout the world.
But even where there isn’t a Little Free Library — or there’s a need for more than just books — community solutions abound to make sure people have access to the resources they need.
Consider the following:
- People in Jakarta, Indonesia, can borrow reading material from book nooks on tuk-tuks. And in Puerto Rico, a public book exchange is set up on the sidewalk.
- A New York Public Library branch lets people check out interview clothes and accessories.
- Libraries offer free lunches for students in the summer and services for homeless people.
- Books are delivered by burro in Colombia and camels in Kenya. And hundreds of bookmobiles still travel around the United States, making sure people living in remote and under-served areas have access to reading material.
When communities find out-of-the-box ways to give people free access to books (and other information and materials), they aren’t just offering a nice perk. They make a legitimate and positive difference in the lives of their residents.
Literacy is critical for economic development.
Literacy is an important part of individual and community well-being. And it is critical for economic development.
Higher rates of literacy have been positively correlated with better health, increased job access and mobility, and decreased prison rates. But literacy also gives people the tools they need to make informed political choices, express their opinions, and continue to change their communities for the better.
Literacy is a powerful tool for communities around the world. Finding innovative approaches to encourage it is important, as it creates ripples that positively affect those communities in countless other ways.
It is a powerful example of one solution that keeps on giving.