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Wis. man sparks global phenomenon as Little Free Libraries spread to at least 36 countries

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    In this Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 photo, Rick Brooks, left, looks through the small glass door as he and Elizabeth Kennedy pose beside one of the Little Free Libraries lending boxes, in Hudson, Wis. The non-profit Little Free Libraries movement is branching out in new directions including inner-city neighborhoods where kids might not have many books and into developing countries were people are hungry for reading material and by Christmas expects its followers will have erected over 5,000 book boxes across the U.S. alone. Brooks is co-founder of Little Free Libraries. (AP Photo/Jim Mone) (The Associated Press)

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    In this Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, photo, the nameplates for the Little Free Libraries lending boxes are shown in Hudson, Wis. The non-profit Little Free Libraries movement is branching out in new directions including inner-city neighborhoods where kids might not have many books and into developing countries were people are hungry for reading material and by Christmas expects its followers will have erected over 5,000 book boxes across the U.S. alone.(AP Photo/Jim Mone) (The Associated Press)

A Wisconsin man planned a simple tribute to his mother when he put up a miniature version of a one-room schoolhouse, filled it with books and invited people to borrow them.

But Todd Bol's neighbors began dropping by so often his lawn became a gathering spot. After a friend put out similar boxes in Madison and got the same reaction, the idea really began spreading.

Three years later, the whimsical boxes known as Little Free Libraries number in the thousands and have spread to at least 36 countries.

Some schools have seized on their potential, often erecting the tiny libraries in poorer neighborhoods where kids many not have many books at home.

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