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CLEAR LAKE — Since they put up a mini library last Easter, Sally and Alan Rasmussen have watched books come and go from their lawn.

After visiting their daughter in Minneapolis — where they saw five Little Free Library boxes in the blocks down from her house — they decided to bring the idea to their Clear Lake home.

Her husband took a few weeks to build it and Sally, an artist, painted it colorfully.

Living about a block from Clear Creek Elementary on South 10th Place, she has watched with pleasure from the window of her home art studio as kids and adults stop by to take out books.

“They know,” she said. “The word gets out for something like that.”

Since 2009, Little Free Libraries have been sprouting across the country as thousands have joined an organic movement that allows folks to leave and take books from small lending boxes on yards and commercial districts.

The idea began when a Wisconsin man, Todd Bol, set up the first lending box in tribute to his late mother, a librarian.

In 2012, he established a nonprofit to spread the idea nationwide, according to the organization’s website, As of January, it estimates there are 36,000 little free library boxes worldwide, including at least three in Mason City.

It hopes to grow to 100,000 libraries by the end of next year, according to its website.

After Julie Wilson saw one near Mason City High School, she knew she wanted to bring one to her Mason City home on the 1500 block of North Washington Avenue.

Her husband, Steve, built theirs last summer, partly from a case they bought at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, she said.

Since the pre-made cases on the non-profit’s website can range between $150 and $400, she said they decided to build their own as a personalized gift for the neighborhood.

“Our corner is a very busy stop for the school buses,” she said. “And it’s the first thing they see.”

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