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.
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.
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.
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.
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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