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The Milwaukee Movement

Spreading literacy in the Midwest
by mrsjones
February 2, 2004
Milwaukee has a new virtual library and it’s growing every day! A group of book lovers have engaged in creating a free library of books that can be found in the most unusual places. They’ve discovered a website called BookCrossing.com and residents of Milwaukee are logging on every day.

The website was designed by a man named Ron Hornbaker who had the idea to create a worldwide library. His vision was that a person might find a book at any time, anywhere for free. You may be sipping coffee at your favorite coffee shop and suddenly stumble upon a book that someone else left there. Or you may be in a doctor’s waiting room, or sitting on a park bench, or flying on an airplane. And there it will be — a free book that someone left behind for others to read.

Milwaukee currently boasts 293 BookCrossing members. These are people like HikingReader, an avid hiker who has hiked both the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails. He loves books that relate to his hobbies and now hosts a book ring in which he and fellow BookCrossers exchange books.

Or there's dianekos who has only been a member since April 2003 but has already registered over 200 of her books. Tlewke presents her bookshelf page with a picture of Scarlett O’Hara and a note about which books she hopes to read soon.

These Milwaukee readers are sharing their books with the world. Books have been released at the Public Library, Stone Creek Coffee, Miller Park, Southridge Mall’s Food Court, Ray’s Butcher Shop, Milwaukee Medical Center, Cousins Restaurant, Haircuts Unlimited — all over Milwaukee!

Anyone who finds a BookCrossing book is encouraged to go home, log on, and make a journal entry that they’ve found that book and where. The person who released it gets an email, updating them on where their book has traveled. After it’s been read, that person can drop it back into the wild and let other people carry it to destinies one can only imagine.

An updated column on the web site shows you the last 3 books released and the last 3 caught, and it changes more quickly than you’d think.

It’s fascinating. In the morning, there are usually a number of recent releases and catches in Italy, the Netherlands and often Australia or England. As the day goes on and time zones shift, people all over the United States dominate the recent release boards. At any given moment the 3 newest releases might be in Alaska, Florida and New Jersey. Or Virginia, Texas and Missouri. You just never know who might be logged on and releasing their books into the world.

This site is not only a great public service; it’s free entertainment, too. People who love to read will love the idea of creating a worldwide library where books can find their way into the hands of many.

The more people who participate, the greater the variety. And this is something the whole family can do! Go clean off your childrens’ shelves. Go gather up those books you’ll never read again. Milwaukee readers, join in! MrsJones wants to go hunting!

[Juliann Wetz is the author of two Robbie & Marshall adventures: Boot Camp and Genuine Swiss Army. Her work has appeared in Highlights for Children, Daughters Newsletter, Boys Life, Capper’s, Good Old Days, Personal Journaling, and Child Life. She currently writes weekly columns for the Pulse Journal. —Ed.]

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