My first little free library was housed in a large carton on our screened-in porch in our old house. We left the screen lock unlatched so the borrowers could come and go as they pleased. The Lending Library was officially launched one Thursday afternoon as Ashley, Julie, Laura, Laura, and Lindsey (a.k.a. The Car Pool) all gathered around my kitchen table to enjoy the chocolate-chip cookie pizza I had prepared (I might have had some, too), and I issued each of them a homemade library card informing them of their rights and responsibilities (hard to remember what those might have been). Enthusiastic in the way of little girls, each one came with books to contribute. A believer in recycling, I had turned my attention to books; why should we be all be purchasing the same or similar books if we could exchange books? Both a borrower and a lender be.
Last May, I came across a small article in AARP Magazine (almost 20 years have gone by, so I am now a member!) that brought that memory to mind. It told the story of Todd Bol, who with a desire to honor his late mother, a teacher and book-lover, built a dollhouse-like box on a pole, planted it in front of his house in Hudson, Wisconsin and filled it with good books. He attached a sign inviting people to take a book—leave a book. And they did! His simple, yet profound, gesture proved to be so successful in encouraging reading, building a sense of community and promoting sustainability that others wanted to copy his model…and the Little Free Library movement was born. His friend, Rick Brooks, a supporter of literacy and social empowerment, partnered with him to spread the word. This AARP article of no more than 150 words, accompanied by a small picture, made a strong impression on me, and I tore it out, continued to think about it, but in reality, did nothing. That is, until this week.
Yes, I have now ordered and will be the steward of an officially registered Little Free Library (I will also learn if my husband reads my blog, since this will be news to him). Being registered means that I can list my Little Library on the Little Free Library Map of the World. Certain questions still need to be answered, such as exactly where it will be installed. I have a wonderful spot in mind, but it could—and has—worked in many different kinds of settings.
I strongly urge you to visit the Little Free Library website. You will be fascinated and inspired by all the ensuing developments. Personally, I always admire a person who takes his or her idea to do good out into the world and actually makes it happen, someone like Brian Floriani (included in my post Repairing the World through the Power of Reading) who similarly founded Bernie’s Book Bank in tribute to his late father.
The movement has travelled around the world; Little Free Libraries now exist in all 50 states and at least 40 countries. Photo galleries on the website and on Facebook show off all the different types of Little Libraries that have been created and the joy on the faces of those participating in this mission. A broad range of opportunities and options exist for children, young people and adults of all ages to contribute through their families, service clubs, schools, synagogues or churches. You can get involved and/or donate to group, citywide or nationwide projects. AARP is funding a new program: Reaching Out to Older, Socially Isolated Adults by Reading Aloud which can use volunteer readers of any age.
Here is my favorite story from the website of people working together to accomplish their goals:
Become a great global neighbor like Hudson High School, right across the Minnesota border in Wisconsin. The school shop class is building 12 Libraries for Books for Africa, the art class is painting them, the media department is documenting the story, the community is sponsoring them and Libraries full of books will be off to Africa. The school receives part of the funds to support its programs. And once the books and Libraries arrive in Africa, Rotary Clubs help deliver and install them.
The story continues as each Little Free Library is placed on the world map and Hudson High School students develop ongoing communication with partner schools in Africa. They can exchange ideas, photos, letters…and even create books together.
You never know. Maybe someday students from both continents can visit each other!
This shared multi-generational endeavor truly embodies the spirit of Tikkun Olam, the Jewish concept of repairing the world one good deed at a time…and enriches the lives of all involved.
Building, painting and decorating a library would be a memorable project for you and your grandchild, and you will find lots of information, support and suggestions on the website. Little Free Library encourages you to use recycled and found materials and demonstrate green building techniques which feels just right to me. You can even compete in local and national design and construction competitions.
So many people have embraced the idea of the Little Free Library, and what is interesting and curious to me about this is that in addition to its simplicity, this is an old, nostalgic concept: books, lending, wood-working, neighbors talking face-to-face. It’s all about connecting people and not about technology, at all. Clearly, I’m not a Luddite; after all, I’m blogging and tweeting. I do, though, think of myself as old school and books—actual books—hold a strong visceral appeal for me, as do pencils and pens and paper.
As a steward of a Little Free Library, I am planning to reach out to neighbors and friends for their help. I’m looking forward to the installation and grand opening of my Library and you’re all invited. Maybe the Car Pool girls will be there, and I’d be happy to bring chocolate-chip cookies.