Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

December 13, 2013

Library gnome journeys to the Netherlands

Trip part of Kokomo-Howard County Public Library's geocaching contest.

By Lindsey Ziliak Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — A local gnome is nearing the end of its 4,561-mile journey to a library in the Netherlands.

It’s been on the road since this summer.

The Kokomo-Howard County Public Library sent 12 plastic gnomes out into the world for a geocaching contest during its summer reading program.

“I came up with the idea to use gnomes to promote the library,” said library spokeswoman Lisa Fipps. “I wanted people to get excited about the library and for the library to partner more with the community. I also wanted people to realize the library is a fun place to be for events and activities, and shake that stereotype of a library being a boring shh-ing zone with books.”

Fipps put trackers on all 12 gnomes and decided where each one was headed. There are gnomes bound for places like Colorado, Tennessee, Ohio, Denmark, Holland, the Netherlands and even some places in Indiana.

Every journey ends at a cutting-edge library.

“The Kokomo-Howard County Public Library is striving to become a leader in the library world, a library other libraries look to for trends,” Fipps said. “So we chose 12 libraries around the globe that are trend-setters.”

The Colorado gnome is going to Anythink Library — a trend-setter even in its name. That name tells you the library has no bounds beyond what the mind can think of, Fipps said. Anythink responds to the changing needs of the community it serves and has The Studio, where it holds hands-on learning programs.

The Anythink gnome has nearly reached that library, too.

It has traveled 2,103 miles and is about 80 miles from its destination, Fipps said.

The gnome bound for the Netherlands is winning the race to the finish, though. It has journeyed 4,501 miles and is only 60 miles away from the finish line.

Fipps said it’s ironic that some of the gnomes that have the farthest to go are the ones closest to their destinations.

So how does it work?

The library’s system administrator, a geocacher himself, hid all 12 gnomes in local geocaches. Every time someone finds one using GPS coordinates, they’re supposed to move it to another geocache — hopefully one a little closer to its destination.

The first gnome to get to the right place wins. And all of the people who helped it get there are entered into a drawing for a free Kindle.

Some gnomes got stuck on their journey. A gnome headed to Denmark has been stuck in Lafayette for a while. But somehow another made it all the way to the Netherlands.

Fipps said she could hardly believe it.

“It’s so cool to think that someone was willing to find and take a Kokomo-Howard County Public Library gnome on an international flight and then cache it in The Netherlands,” she said. “A-mazing! But, then again, someone took Jerome the Gnome, which was KHCPL’s version of Flat Stanley, to the Great Wall of China. That gave me goosebumps, for something from KHCPL to be on the more than 2,000-year-old Great Wall of China, one of the greatest wonders of the world.”

Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune Life & Style editor, can be reached at 765-454-8585, at lindsey.ziliak@kokomotribune.com or via Twitter @LindseyZiliak.