With a Little Money and a Lot of Love, One Upper Peninsula Woman is Helping Rural Michigan Residents Read More

A U.P. resident’s personal mission to help spread the joy of reading is the latest story from Detroit Free Press writer John Carlisle.

On the now decommissioned K.I. Sawyer military base, close to a little town named Gwinn south of Marquette, resident Melissa Derby can often be found in an old pick-up truck dropping off books to rural residents of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

When the military based closed, Gwinn descended into poverty. Now, many residents rely on Facebook groups and pages that enable people to connect and swap everything from baby clothes to appliances for free. Derby got ahold of some books and offered them for free, and they were immediately snatched up. That sparked an idea; Derby decided to start a bookmobile to fill the need for books in the rural area.

Derby sent out a request asking people to donate books that they no longer needed. Soon, books came flooding in by the thousands. She estimates she currently has around 10,000 books in her house. Now, she drives them to anyone in the U.P. who asks for them, free of charge, as a way to promote reading in the region.

Derby’s personal mission to help spread the joy of reading is the latest story from Detroit Free Press writer John Carlisle.

Click the audio player to hear Carlisle talk about the struggle and hope Derby’s mobile library is bringing to Northern Michigan residents. 

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  • Amanda LeClaire
    Amanda LeClaire is an award-winning host and producer of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. She’s a founding producer of WDET’s flagship news talk show Detroit Today, and a former host/reporter for Arizona Public Media. Amanda is also an artist, certified intuitive and energy healer, and professional tarot reader.