Benton-Stephens residents will soon have free books to read and share, thanks to Kate’s Heart, a nonprofit organization honoring Kate Germain Kromann, a 2002 graduate of Rock Bridge High School and the Mizzou Journalism school (2005) who unexpectedly died at age 31, leaving behind a husband and two small children.

The dedication will take place on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 13 at 2 p.m. at the Mary Lee Johnston Community Learning Center, 1509 Hinkson Ave., Columbia.

This is the first of 10 or more Free Little Libraries planned for Columbia and St. Louis, thanks to Kate’s Heart donors and volunteers who helped build the houses, donate books, and steward and maintain the libraries.

“If you knew Kate, you knew of her love for books and literacy,” says Kromann’s mother Susan Bartel, a resident of Columbia for 25 years, and a stalwart of the community. “About 5 years ago when Kate was still living, she and I were together, and she pointed out a Free Little Library and said she thought it would be a great project. So here we are, ensuring her memory lives on, by doing what she did best – making sure all children have opportunities to grow and learn.”


The Free Little Library project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring a love of reading by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world. The libraries are small, house-like structures that sit on a post in the ground. Bigger than a birdhouse, with two-to-three shelves and about 30 books, people in the community can pick out a book and return it anytime, trading one for another. Anyone interested in helping build libraries or donating books should email