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Outdoor Libraries Set Up After Branch Closings

DETROIT (AP) - Students from a Detroit school and the University of Michigan are setting up six outdoor libraries in the city following recent library branch closings.

Five of the outdoor libraries, which are housed in waterproof bookcases, opened Wednesday for lending and the sixth will open in June, Detroit Free Press reported. They operate on the honor system. People don't need a library card to use them and there are no late fees.

The Detroit students, who were on spring break this week, are fourth graders at Marcus Garvey Academy. The plan is from 48-year-old Melanie Manos, a lecturer at the University of Michigan who came up with the idea for the outdoor libraries as a project for her art and design students.

"It broke my heart to hear about the library closings, which are such a vital part of every community," Manos said. "Ever since I was a child, I've loved visiting the library. I always regarded it as a sacred space and I think it would be a shame to deny any children the opportunity to read."

Manos said the outdoor libraries are an attempt to draw attention to the library branch closings and give back to the community.

"Even in the age of the Internet there is still a place for libraries," she said.

The fourth graders, under guidance from the college students, painted colorful banners and helped build waterproof bookcases to house collections of donated books for children and adults. The outdoor libraries are being set up at or nearby Detroit Public Library branches that have closed.

Book donations also are being accepted at the sites.

Revenue problems in the Detroit Public Library system have forced the closure of some branches. Library administrators had have closings were needed to cut costs.

On Thursday morning, Rashard Baker, 13, a student at Henderson Elementary in Detroit, went to the library's Richard branch with hopes of checking out a book but learned that the branch was among those closed. He looked over the selection at the outdoor library, and picked out "The Book of Dragons."

"It sounds like it might be pretty interesting," he said. "I'll give it a try."

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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