Little Free Libraries: a wonderful addition to every neighborhood
I don't remember when I saw my first Little Free Library, but I remember it was a head-turner. "What a great idea!" I thought. That first one was in the DuPont Circle area of Washington DC, and Elan was donating some of his books.
I love books. I love reading them, seeing them, and holding them. I've spent a fortune on books, and I've given most of them away. I have favorite books that I buy every time I see one at a thrift store or garage sale, and donate them to friends. Once, I collected a couple dozen copies of Ed Abbey's Desert Solitaire, and gave them to a group of Utah Conservation Corps volunteers, since they would be working in Utah's Red Rock country. When I retired from Utah State University, I donated hundreds of technical books to the USU Library. Hundreds of popular books went to thrift store Deseret Industries.
So, free books at the neighborhood level just seemed to good to be true. You know that saying, "If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is"? Not in this case. With Little Free Libraries, there are no conditions. See a book that you like? Take it. Got a book to donate? Leave it behind.
Little Free Library (motto: "Take a book. Share a book") is a non-profit with the vision that "[There] is a Little Free Library in every community and a book for every reader. We believe all people are empowered when the opportunity to discover a personally relevant book to read is not limited by time, space, or privilege."
I love this idea! But I started off small, like a "Tiny Free Library." I got permission from the Starbucks manager in North Logan to have a container of books for people to take, and share.
This worked pretty well. I was a regular customer, and I made sure I always had extra books in my car to fill the container. This worked for months, but one day I was sitting there and I watched a person come it, and put every book into her bag. I was shocked, but, hey, take a book! I refilled it when she left. I was there the next day (I did say I was a regular customer), and she came in and did the same thing, leaving behind a travel book. This went on for a week, when I decided to only add travel books. They lasted, but what I had really liked was seeing children go over and get a picture book. As it turned out, the person taking books was a hoarder (her car was completely filled except for the driver's seat). In addition, travel books didn't seem to be a popular genre at Starbucks, so the books just didn't rotate. Eventually, the staff got tired of seeing the same books, and the container disappeared.
I remember when I started at Starbucks, I kept track of the books being removed (I stopped after the first dozen). I came up with a new saying: "If you leave it, they will come (unless it's a travel book."
That was my start. I still had those extra books in my car, so I got a weather-proof container and set it alongside a bench in my front yard. I really thought it would walk off, but it lasted for over a year. I would have kept it going, but Caroline installed a real Little Free Library for my birthday!
The neighborhood was responded well. There are at least 3 Little Free Libraries in a 10 block area from my home. I love that they are used!
Now I look for Little Free Libraries whenever I travel, and some are fabulous!
|I discovered this Little Free Library in a neighborhood in Venice, Florida.|
Alas, not all is well for these unmonitored Little Free Libraries. My friend Joyce Kincaid had her library In Lion's Park destroyed less than a week ago:
|Joyce wrote, "My Little Free Library was blown up on Friday night. It is devastating as we enjoyed watching families get books, and so many people donated books..." Many people in the neighborhood reported the explosion at around 11 PM.|
When the pandemic started in 2020, I added a bottle of hand sanitizer and wrote a note asking people to be safe. I'm glad that the library continued to be used. Over the years, as space allowed, we have also added DVDs, small toys, and some canned food. I actually made a pitch to the Friends of the Logan Library to allow official Little Free Library sponsors to have the opportunity to raid the annual book sale for books of popular genres in our neighborhoods. That proposal didn't fly. I wanted more children's books, which are harder for me to get since I don't have (young) children.
Little Free Libraries aren't ubiquitous. I didn't see any in Italy. I haven't found one on Oahu or Maui. In 2021, The Pew Research Center reported that "Print books remain the most popular format for reading, with 65% of adults saying that they have read a print book in the past year."
If you are one of those 65%, I hope you search out and utilize a Little Free Library. You can find if there are any in your neighborhood by visiting this site and entering your city or zip code: https://app.littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap. Happy reading!