Birthday celebrated with gift of 'Little Free Library' to community
In celebration of her 75th birthday, Claudine Eckhart sought no jewels or fine clothing.
Rather, she wanted to share the joy of reading with children and adults by joining the growing "Little Free Library" movement.
Eckhart's children, Bob Eckhart and Anne Eckhart Ticknor, came through for their mother, presenting her with a Little Free Library on her birthday July 30.
A few weeks later, Eckhart's children, nieces and grandchildren installed the "glorified birdhouse," which they purchased from the nonprofit Little Free Library company.
She now offers free books to borrow or keep from the curbside of her home at 1850 Upper Chelsea Road, Upper Arlington.
"I can read a book and it transports me to another place or even a new experience," Eckhart said. "We have a lot of walkers and a lot of children on this street and I thought it would add."
Long before starting her own athenaeum, Eckhart was supporter of public libraries.
She and husband Henry's home for the past 44 years is about a block from the Upper Arlington Public Library Miller Park Branch. They visit often -- "I'm there all the time," Claudine Eckhart said -- and they've donated books and an outdoor bench to it.
"Our children lived at that library," she added. "I think reading is important for children. If they don't have a book and they don't have somebody reading to them when they're little, they'll never get inspired to read or learn."
She learned of the Little Free Library movement from the company's website, and after reading about others popping up in central Ohio, including one at 216 Oakland Park in Clintonville.
Her library was established under the same tenets of Little Free Library's stated missions to promote literacy, a love of reading and a sense of community.
An Upper Arlington Public Library official said projects such as the Eckharts' complement traditional public libraries.
"We'd be excited by anything that supports literacy, an interest in reading and lifelong learning," said UAPL Assistant Director Kate Porter. "It's the same mission we're promoting."
Claudine Eckhart estimated that roughly half her library's books are children's books, but she prides herself on the catalog's diversity.
Many are from her family collection, rich in fiction and cookbooks, thanks to her influence, and political contributions from Henry.
The others are from anonymous donations.
"On the front it says, 'Take a book or leave a book,' " she said. "If they take a book, they can keep it.
"I'm trying to encourage anybody that comes by to use. I try to keep it full."
"We have a lot of walkers and a lot of children on this street and I thought it would add."
-- CLAUDINE ECKHART
Little Free Library proponent