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An ever-changing variety of books is housed in Cal Moe’s Little Free Library log cabin. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Nevis man creates small neighborhood library

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BY JEAN RUZICKA

A library is difficult to discern while motoring along Lake Belle Taine’s southern rim.

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But at 22344 County 80 a pint-size log cabin has emerged, housing an ever-changing collection of mysteries, cowboy adventures, non-fiction and kids stories.

The library’s credo: “Take a book; return a book.”

Cal Moe is the contractor behind the Abe Lincoln-inspired miniature library. Artfully hewn cedar logs and roof shakes (harvested from the property’s southern perimeter), a rock chimney and an antler as the door knob define the exterior of the Little Free Library.

The goal of the Little Free Library book exchange was to build as many as Andrew Carnegie, 2,510 and keep going.

Carnegie was a Scottish-American industrialist who led the enormous expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century. He subsequently became the philanthropist known for his gift of libraries.

Now his legacy continues, in miniature form.

Moe’s neighborhood library, opening this spring, is number 5,162 in what has become an international initiative to increase literacy. Minneapolis is home to more than 100 mini literary repositories. Two have emerged in Walker, one in Detroit Lakes “and now there’s one in Nevis.”

Each house has a character of its own, based on the architect’s whim, from a little red school house to a corner store to a chapel and beyond. Green building techniques are encouraged.

Some have specific book themes, but Moe’s is a general cross section of literature for all ages.

Moe’s was inspired by an image of Abe as a youth in a dimly lit, primitive cabin, using charcoal on a wooden snow shovel to compute math.

“Wow,” he remembered thinking as a kid. “He wanted to learn his numbers.”

“This is more than recycling books,” he said. “We’re here to share. You can’t do this with an iPad.”

And people arriving from Iowa, for example, don’t qualify for the traditional public library card.

“If you’re here for a week and the book is half-read, take it home,” he said. There are no “cards” to fill out and no late fees. Library hours: 24/7.

He monitors the library for readership. If a book stays on the shelf for more than a few days, it’s replaced.

“Reading is an escape,” Moe said of his proclivity for turning pages. “I’d rather read than watch TV.”

To learn how to get started on building a library or to donate, visit www.littlefreelibrary.org.

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