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Children go on quest for hidden letterbox at the Columbia Public Library

Thursday, June 14, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:08 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008
Lindsay Martin, 14, left, and Ellie Cole, 13, found the letterbox on a bottom bookshelf in the Columbia Public Library on Tuesday. Teams followed clues to locations around the library in search for the hidden box containing a unique stamp and booklet.

Correction (11:30 a.m.): This story was updated to correct the number of participants. Also, there were two clues, not one, that led to the location of the letterboxes.

Ellie Cole, 13, designed her stamp with the letters “E” and “J,” a helicopter and a heart for the letterboxing activity she participated in Tuesday evening at the Columbia Public Library.

“I’m not telling you what it means though,” Cole said in accordance with the secretive spirit of the activity.

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Letterboxing is an outdoor, treasure hunt style activity that combines navigational skills and rubber stamp artistry. Participants hide boxes that contain a logbook and carved, personal rubber stamps in scenic places and post clues, typically on the Internet, to find the boxes. When someone locates the letterbox they stamp the logbook with their own personal stamp, stamp their own book with the stamp they found in the box and put it back where they found it.

Library associate Hilary Aid led the letterboxing activity Tuesday. She thinks letterboxing is educational because of the navigational and problem solving skills the hobby requires. She also used the program to show the eight participants what the library has to offer teens. Clues that read, “wet your whistle," and "pass a place that goes up and down,” led to letterboxes located at the summer reading sign up station for teens, to the area with the best Wi-Fi connection, where graphic novels and comics are kept, and the teen magazine spot.

“I want it to be a really fun place for teens,” Aid said.

Although the library does not keep official numbers of how many teens use the library, Sarah Howard, the children and youth librarian, thinks there is a steady flow of teens in the library, especially ages 13 to 15.

Nationally, participation in teen library programs has risen over the past decade, from 35.5 million per year in 1993 to 51.8 million per year in 2001, according the National Center Education Statistics.

Accordingly, Howard said the library is trying to increase the number of programs offered each year. The teen summer reading program, “YNK: You Never Know @ Your Library,” began Monday. About 20 teens are signed up, Howard said.


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