With three locations in town, Canal Winchester is part of central Ohio's Little Free Library trend.

CORRECTION: The print and earlier online version of this story gave the wrong first name for Janie Kantner.

With three locations in town, Canal Winchester is part of central Ohio's Little Free Library trend.

The first Little Free Library was installed in May in the yard of Janie Kantner's home at 42 W. Columbus St. The other two were installed in June -- one downtown next to the flagpole in Guiler Park and the other on the city's north side in front of Olive Branch Pizzeria, 5600 Gender Road.

A Little Free Library (LFL) is a publicly accessible stand or stall holding books that passersby are free to take, swap with or donate to.

Heather Baugess, media-center specialist at Canal Winchester Middle School, began the initiative last winter as a way to keep students engaged and stoke their curiosity. She is directly responsible for the installation of the latter two LFL outlets and was the motivation for the first one.

"Last year, I decided I wanted to do something where we could get Little Free Library in our community, so students could have access to books when our library is closed," Baugess said.

She discussed her plans at a meeting of the district's librarians, which piqued the curiosity of Kanter, a librarian at Indian Creek Elementary School.

"That got me thinking of my old dream of proving a Little Free Library at my own house," said Kantner, who said she's lived 50 of her 55 years in Canal Winchester. "Now that I live in town, it just seemed like the time was right."

Baugess found that securing funding for the project was a task in its own right. She began by cutting and saving box tops through the Box Tops for Education program, collecting $80 of the $300 required to install one LFL stand.

"It wasn't quite enough. I figured we would just have to continue raising (money) that way, though," she said.

However, the nonprofit BrockStrong Foundation, named for Brock Johnson, a Canal Winchester student who died in 2015 at age 14, covered the rest of the cost.

Others in the community then became involved. BrockStrong board member Kelly Best solicited the help of Luke Smithers, a Canal Winchester High School freshman who designed, built and installed the LFLs as part of his Eagle Scout project.

The stands are painted green -- Brock's favorite color -- with a white trim.

Baugess said the north location was an easy decision.

"Our plan was to get one in town and also one north of (state Route) 33, into that part of Canal Winchester." she said. "(At Olive Branch) people are in and out, so there's a secureness there. There's a daycare next door as well."

Tammy Wallake owns both the Olive Branch and Heaven Sent Children's Academy daycare so the fit was natural, she said.

"That's what made me so excited about the project," Wallake said. "We have so many children who could benefit from it, and their parents, and the community as a whole. The library is located between Heaven Sent and Olive Branch, so it's easily accessible to both businesses."

While the Olive Branch location was an easy decision, Baugess said it took more time to decide on the Guiler Park location downtown.

"At first, we wanted to put the library in front of the pool, but then we realized that it's closed nine months out of the year and there wouldn't be a lot of foot traffic," she said.

All three sites have been registered through the Little Free Library organization and are visible through that group's website. Little Free Library is a 501 nonprofit organization that promotes neighborhood book exchanges. More than 90,000 public book exchanges are registered with the organization, according to its website.

"This even allows anyone to search online and find our locations," Baugess said.

Each LFL can hold about 60 medium-size books. A book drive at the middle school yielded about two boxes of books which filled about two-thirds of each LFL.

"I didn't completely fill it up on purpose," Baugess said. "That way, you're free to donate or you can exchange. You can do whatever you want with it."

Kantner funded her LFL stand that was constructed by Ketron Custom Builders, the group she used to build her house in 2017.

"Having a Little Free Library in my yard allows me to easily take the library and keep it filled with great books," she said. "My hope was that this location would be easily accessible for Canal Winchester residents and visitors alike."

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