Leslie Karst

Little Library Love

You may have noticed an invasion of sorts over the past few years in your neighborhood. The first sightings near my house were simple boxes on stilts, with plexiglass doors. But then came more intricate versions shaped like tiny houses with roofs and paint-jobs to match the homes of their creators. And they were all filled with books!

Wow, that is so cool! I thought after seeing the first one. And then wondered, What the heck is going on? after several more sprouted up around our town. I soon learned: the Little Free Library movement had come to Santa Cruz.

This “take a book, leave a book” organization had its beginnings in 2009, when Todd Bol—as a tribute to his teacher-mother who loved to read—built a model of a one-room schoolhouse and set it on stilts in his front yard in Wisconsin. He filled the box with books and invited his friends and neighbors to partake of this little library.

original FLL

the original schoolhouse little library

The concept proved wildly popular, and before long a non-profit was formed with the name “Little Free Library.” There are now some 75,000 Little Free Library book-sharing boxes in 88 countries across the globe (many more, if you count those who haven’t registered theirs with the organization).

Inspired by the movement, my wife decided to put a little library up in front of our house a couple of years ago. Ever crafty, Robin constructed a box with different height shelves (for pocket fiction, trade and hardback fiction, non-fiction, and magazines), a clear plastic door with magnetic and clasp latches, and an asphalt shingle roof and salmon-colored paint to match our house.

our LL

isn’t it adorable?

The little library has been a bit hit in our neighborhood and in general, people are good about keeping it neat and replacing the books they take with others.

But there are, alas, always folks who don’t play by the rules. Sometimes we awake to find the box nearly cleared out, and there have been times when someone has cherry-picked the library to take all the readily re-sellable books. As a result, Robin was forced to have a stamp made, which she now employs before putting out certain “quality” books.

stamp

And the little library does attract its share of….interesting visitors. A few weeks ago, my niece was staying the night in the room at the front of our house and was woken at about three a.m. by loud voices out on the sidewalk. Two women were jabbering about the merits of the various books in the box (they must have been using the flashlight app on their phone) and, according to my niece, sounded quite intoxicated. When after fifteen minutes they moved from discussing the books to their relationship problems, my niece finally got up, went outside, and asked them to please quiet down.

It’s also a lot of work, constantly neatening up the box, making sure it’s securely closed, restocking it, and organizing and storing the bags of books good-hearted souls occasionally leave on our doorstep. But the effort is well worth it (especially since Robin does the lion’s share). Not only have we met a variety of new neighbors because of the box, but the knowledge that we’re bringing books to those that might not otherwise have access to them is a wonderful thing.

close up

As stated on their website, the Little Free Library movement is something that “inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.” What’s not to like?


Readers, do any of you host a Little Free Library? Are there any in your neighborhood and if so, do you make use of them?

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27 thoughts on “Little Library Love

  1. I love this idea! So giving. And your wife did a wonderful job! I haven’t seen any of these around our neighborhood. I will have to be on the lookout.
    I do take my books to the library so they can resell, if it’s a book I didn’t like, I bought an extra copy, or I want to give up an entire series.
    I will let you know if I find one and eill definitely dontate to it!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I love these little libraries! We have one on our street—along the route between our house and our son Dash’s school—and we stop in regularly to see what’s new and then add books ourselves often too. And just recently the girl scouts have put up another one AT Dash’s school, right by the playground. It’s a great idea all around and a great service to the community. Thanks for the post here!

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Your library is so cute! Supposedly there is a little library in a neighborhood a few miles from my place, but I’ve never been to it. I’ll have to remember to stop by next time I’m drunk at 3 AM and in the mood for some loud, philosophical ramblings.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. I love this movement! What a terrific way to get people to read and also to help those that cannot afford books or have no library in their neighborhood. I have been reading several series that are about little libraries. Of course, there is always a mystery involved!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. There is one down on the main street on my town. I’ve never stopped to look at what’s in it, though.

    Yours is cute and our local one looks like a one-room schoolhouse. Unfortunately, I’ve read about some slapdash ones that aren’t well-made, so water has gotten in and ruined all the books. 😦

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I love the idea, but I don’t know if any around me. If there is a website, I may have to check it out and see where the closest one is. I’ve got enough books I could help stock it.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. So, cool, Leslie — you two have a beautiful little library! I just looked up the website and discovered a couple of Little Libraries near me that I didn’t know about. Read on!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Wow, this is so cool! (And yours is so cute, Leslie!) I had no idea there was an organization like this. Unfortunately, we don’t have any registered ones in my immediate area. But that may be because many of these tiny NH towns have tiny libraries already (1 room, usually) and they set out books on the porches a few times a year for people to buy (honor system contribution). We have an antique 1-room library but the residents complained about heating costs so the books are located in our town hall right now. I’ve noticed some boxes sprouting up here and there,tho, created by kids for community service projects. Sometimes they are located in police stations.

    Liked by 3 people

    • And it may be, Lisa, that you do have some but they haven’t registered with the LFL folks. It took us a while to get it together to register after the box was up. Your local libraries sound so cute–and wonderful! I want to visit them!

      Liked by 2 people

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