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HUNTINGTON — Soon, visitors at Yeager and Huntington Tri-State airports will not have to worry about lugging an extra book or keeping their tablet charged, as Little Free Libraries will be there to help.

The libraries will be sponsored by Marshall University. The M-shaped bookshelves are being built by students in Bret Masters’ building technology class at Cabell County Career Technology Center.

The first bookshelf is set to be installed at Yeager Airport in Charleston this spring, pending the classes’ ability to finish the large project during the pandemic. Kelli Johnson, associate librarian at Marshall, said she hopes by spring break there will be a Little Free Library in Charleston with one ready to go at Tri-State by winter break.

The little libraries were Johnson’s idea. One of her last pre-pandemic trips took her through the airport in San Diego, which had its own Little Free Library.

“I was standing in line and there was a cart with books. It said ‘take one, leave one,’” Johnson said. “That’s brilliant to me. I am a reader, but I don’t want to lug books on a plane, but I don’t like a tablet. If I had finished my book, I could grab a new one for the flight and leave the one I had finished.”

She got back to Huntington and started on figuring out if she could recreate the project, especially with the university’s partnership with both airports through the new Flight School.

“We were really excited to work with Kelli,” said Chris Williams, public affairs manager for Yeager Airport. “It’s one more thing we can add to our airport. We like to cater to people the best can, and we take pride in being a family-friendly airport. We already have nursing rooms and a kids’ play area, so this is one more thing we can add for families to do together. Whether you need to let your phone charge or you want to keep the tablets away for a bit, you can go to this free of charge. I thought it was a great idea.”

The libraries will be listed on the national Little Free Library website, which lists the locations of Little Free Libraries across the country, including two Marshall-sponsored libraries in the Fairfield neighborhood.

The Little Free Library movement is not new to Huntington. Along with Marshall-sponsored libraries, community groups sponsor little libraries throughout the city. The Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District also has little libraries in all its parks.

“I want these to promote reading and literacy, but also I just want to show Marshall is invested in the community and in making the community better,” Johnson said.

Masters said he is excited to partner with Marshall again for a great, unique project for his students. Masters’ class previously built and installed the new lockers in the men’s basketball team locker room. The past year has been spent building beds for youth in foster care.

“It’s real rewarding,” Masters said. “I always try to get something different. Hopefully we can make one for Marshall’s library once we get the airports done.”

Williams said he hopes the project will spark some interest in the students in the field of aviation.

“Anything we can do to get people excited to come to the airport and get them excited about aviation is a good thing,” he said. “There are lots of jobs and career paths in aviation. You don’t have to be a pilot or a flight attendant. There are a million things you can do. I never thought I would be in the aviation industry.”

Johnson said the project highlights what she loves about West Virginia and Appalachia.

“It’s one big giant community. Everyone likes to come together and work together and take pride in what one another are doing,” she said. “It’s exciting to showcase (the high school students’) talent.”

Johnson said she is always taking book donations to stock the little libraries. Email her at kelli.johnson@marshall.edu to learn how to donate.

Reporter Taylor Stuck can be reached at tstuck@hdmediallc.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

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