Interpretive signs, Little Free Libraries to be removed from 3 Lake County preserves

  • Little Free Library structures complemented the Trail Tales program in three Lake County forest preserves but will be removed and the program ended.

    Little Free Library structures complemented the Trail Tales program in three Lake County forest preserves but will be removed and the program ended. Courtesy of Bob Callebert

  • A series of interpretive panels, the main element in the Trail Tales program at three Lake County forest preserves, will be removed and the program ended.

    A series of interpretive panels, the main element in the Trail Tales program at three Lake County forest preserves, will be removed and the program ended. Courtesy of Lake County Forest Preserve District

 
 
Posted11/24/2020 5:10 AM

A nature-themed program at three Lake County forest preserves will end, and with it will go the associated Little Free Libraries.

Introduced in 2014, Trail Tales transforms nature-related books -- in bilingual text -- onto a series of seven panels along half-mile trails at the Ryerson Woods, Nippersink and Green Belt forest preserves.

 

Little Free Libraries are installed near the last panel of each trail and visitors can take a book as a way to encourage reading. The story unfolds on the panels and each lists a related activity to interact with the setting nearby.

But the panels, which include original artwork, must be removed because publishers' permission to use the books are expiring.

"We don't have permission to use the books in that way -- there's a sunset with the publisher," said Nan Buckardt, director of education for the Lake County Forest Preserve District.

Little Free Libraries are wooden boxes with hinged doors. Initially stocked with a selection of nature-related books, the libraries operate on an honor system in which patrons take a book to read or keep or contribute a book.

But after the panels are removed, the little free libraries will be out of context, Buckardt said.

Each of them also has needed major repairs at least once due to vandalism, she said, and their height would have to be lowered to meet accessibility standards.

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Trail Tales was meant to engage families with young children, Buckardt said, with "Miss Maple's Seeds" and "Winter is Coming" portrayed on the panels.

"It took us a couple of years to get permission for the first book and the second book that came along later," she said.

The program added another interaction with the landscape and was worthwhile, Buckardt said. But the number and popularity of Little Free Libraries has grown since Trail Tales began and, all things considered, it's time to move on, she said.

Trail Tales was launched in cooperation with Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods, a nonprofit organization that operates through a license agreement with the forest preserve district. Brushwood will be allowed to use any books remaining and will buy the Little Free Library box at the forest preserve.

It will be adapted to ADA standards and installed in front of the Brushwood Center, 21850 N. Riverwoods Road, in the spring, said Catherine Game, executive director.

The removal of the panels and libraries shouldn't deter visitors, Buckardt said.

"Even without the panels, there's still a lot to see," she said.

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