Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thursday Thirteen 370: Little Free Libraries, Part One

I saw my first Little Free Library about five years ago, in front of a local community center. Since then, I've noticed them popping up in neighborhoods around the city. In August 2013, I was walking following a route through my neighborhood I had not taken in months (having defected to the nearby bike path), when I discovered a LFL had been installed. Of course I had to stop and examine its contents, and found a book I wanted to read. The following week I returned with a donation of half a dozen books.

Last July upon returning from an arboretum walk, I saw that a second LFL had been installed in my neighborhood, this one at one of the local parks. I try to hit each of them every few weeks, not only to see if anything interesting has been left, but to help restock. So far I've managed to get rid of an entire box of books, and am working on a second I had to donate. My one regret is that I don’t have children’s books to leave at the one by the park. Sometimes I will pick up a couple at the library used book sale for our LFL.

Not familiar with the Little Free Library concept? Here are a few facts:

01. The Little Free Library movement got its start in 2009 in Hudson, Wisconsin, when Todd Bol placed a small box in front of his house.

02. Decorated to resemble a one-room schoolhouse, the first LFL contained about a dozen books free for the taking. The box was a tribute to Bol's mother, a former teacher and book lover who had died several years earlier.

03. When Rick Brooks — an instructor specializing in youth and community development at the UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies — saw Bol's Little Free Library, he immediately recognized the potential to promote literacy and build communities.

04. Brooks and Bol teamed up to build several more of the boxes, christening the project Little Free Library. Their first LFL was placed beside a bike path behind Absolutely Art Gallery and Café Zoma on the east side of Madison, Wisconsin.

05. People not only saw this novel concept, but wanted one of their own, resulting in numerous requests for more. They began to crop up in communities across Wisconsin by the dozens, and then spread across the United States.

06. Today there are thousands of Little Free Libraries across the USA and the world. Do a search on Pinterest, and you will find hundreds of photos of Little Free Libraries. (And yes, that includes a folder by me!)

07. The Little Free Library concept is simple: take a book, leave a book. There are no due dates, late fees, or library cards required, and the doors are open 24/7.

08. Those who sponsor a Little Free Library are known as stewards, and are responsible for the upkeep of the box. Most LFL's are in peoples’ front yards, while others may be at a school, church, park, or popular neighborhood business.

09. Stewards can build their own box, or can order a kit in one of several designs from the LFL website.

10. Many Little Free Libraries are your basic box with a roof and Plexiglas windows, but some stewards get quite creative. Some people have repurposed old newspaper stands, dollhouses, or come up with their own concept based on a favorite book or character, such as a tardis, tornado funnel, robot, or lighthouse. Others choose to creatively paint, stencil, or decorate a simple box.

11. Some communities regulate Little Free Libraries, requiring stewards to gain permission from the city/town before installing a LFL, even on their own property.

12. Sadly, there have been reports of some communities ordering people to remove a Little Free Library on their property, but thankfully that is not the norm, with most towns choosing to promote literacy.

13. Don’t know if there is a LFL in your area? Visit the LFL website to find out, or to see how you can become a part of this growing literary phenomenon.

Do you have a Little Free Library in your neighborhood or town? Have you ever used one?

LINKING TO: Thursday Thirteen


colleen said...

What a cool idea. Books are meant to be passed on and libraries, big or small, are revolutionary!

Alice Audrey said...

Too cool! I want one! Can't wait to show my dh.

Heather said...

Colleen: I'm guessing you haven't seen these before? Sounds like something you would be into. ☺

Heather said...

Alice: LOL -- I thought you might like this idea. There are a ton of them around Madison now. Some are registered and appear on the map at their website, while many more are not listed.

CountryDew said...

According to your map, there are only two in my nearest city, and none within 10 miles of me. It's a good idea but I suspect it goes over better in cities than in rural areas.

Heather said...

Anita: Yes, I'm sure it would work better in small towns/cities, not out in the country. I hope you get the chance to check out one of those in your nearest city!

Mia Celeste said...

I've seen these before, but I really didn't understand what I was seeing. Now thanks to your post I understand and I agree with you--it's an awesome idea.

Heather said...

Mia: Considering how prevalent they are in Wisconsin, I would have been surprised if you'd said you had not seen one of these before. Glad you now know they're function! ☺

Alice Audrey said...

I'm thinking it could go in the corner of my yard for people who walk by.

PlantPostings said...

We have several in our neighborhood, and I've thought about adding one. It's such a fabulous idea, and I know I would have loved to visit them as a child. One of those concepts that makes the world a better place. :)

Forgetfulone said...

I love this concept! We don't have one. Perhaps I will start one.

Heather said...

Alice: Most of those I have seen are in front of houses, generally a corner of the yard near the sidewalk. I have even seen a couple with benches.

Beth: Isn't it a great concept? I too would have loved visiting these as a kid.

Forgetfulone: Isn't it a great concept? Would love to see yours if you start one! ☺

Jana said...

That's so neat! and the box is so cute, too.

I like the idea of putting children's books in one near a park. That would be an awesome idea.

Heather said...

Jana: There are hardly ever kids books in the one by the park, though I did see someone had left a Harry Potter book there recently.

Alice Audrey said...

A bench sounds nice. I wonder if I can get away with putting one on the terrace.

Heather said...

Alice: A bench on the terrace, or a library? Or both? :D