Book delivery

Hutchinson Public Library and elementary school libraries in Hutchinson have boxes like these for visitors to drop off new books that will be used as Christmas gifts for children.

If you’ve ever wanted to play Santa, or even if you’d just like to support young readers, a Christmas program of The Friends of the Hutchinson Public Library might be a great way to get into the holiday spirit.

Drop boxes decorated to look like chimneys can be found at the public library and local elementary schools as part of the annual Project Bookshelf, which seeks to gather books as gifts for children. The program seeks to highlight the importance of reading and being read to.

Because the books are to be given as gifts, they should be new.

“Each year, Project Bookshelf generates a lot of interest and support from the community,” said head librarian Katy Hiltner. “We already had someone call and drop by to drop off books.”

Project Bookshelf, which is connected to the McLeod County Christmas Project, dates back several years. The Friends of the Library began sponsoring it in 1990 after it was initiated by Lt. Gov. Marlene Johnson to collect books along with toys as holiday gifts. The books are distributed through McLeod County Social Services to local children in need.

The project is now in its 29th year.

“Thanks to the efforts of Project Bookshelf, we hope to continue the tradition of creating a lot of happy readers this holiday season,” Hiltner said.

Cash donations are accepted as well. Last year, more than $600 was donated for the purchase of books, along with 154 books collected from drop boxes. All told, 242 books were donated.

Johanna Hanneman, head of library services at Park Elementary, said last year was a great year for book drop-offs at the school’s drop box.

“We hope to build on that success this year,” she said.

In a fact sheet prepared by the Friends of the Hutchinson Public Library, reading and education are highlighted as powerful tools to help break out of poverty.

“But for many families, buying books is out of the question,” it says. “They can’t afford it. Giving a child a book can arouse interest in using the public library, a valuable, lifelong habit.”

Hanneman said reading is often referred to as the great equalizer.

“Every child should not only have access to books, but have the ability to own and add to their own personal collection,” she said.

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