Thursday, March 8, 2012

Little Free Libraries

They're popping up everywhere -on lawns and town squares, outside coffee shops and on street corners,  and especially in newspapers, tv news programs, and library blogs. I'm talking about Little Free Libraries, the pint-sized public libraries that are enchanting communities all over the country.

Little Free Libraries are the brainchild of Minnesota native Todd Bol, who built the very first Little Free Library in the shape of a one room schoolhouse to honor his mother, a retired teacher and book lover. The original was such an instant and overwhelming hit in his community, Bol was inspired to form an organization dedicated to the spread of the whimisical libraries. In fact, he has a pretty definite goal: to beat the record of the all time Daddy Warbucks of libraries, Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie built and endowed 2,509 American public libraries. Bol and Brooks are shooting for at least 2510.

Besides leaving Andrew Carnegie in the dust, Little Free Libraries has a couple of other goals: to promote literacy and a love of reading, and to build community. Take a book, and if you've got one to spare, leave a book: it's that simple. But people who have installed the library boxes near their homes are amazed at the positive interactions that spring up. Neighbors who have lived on the same street for years, but never spoke to one another,  are suddenly meeting and talking at the Little Free Library. Bol says of the phenomenon:


"What we have found is that the neighborhood starts to feel like it's theirs," Bol said. "The neighborhood starts taking care of it. People come together to talk about literacy, education -- community things that we define so well but lack so much. There is such polarity these days that this is a little common place that we're comfortable with."

Not too shabby for a cute little house and a few books, huh?

Little Free Libraries has a nice website of their own, with lots of pictures (the ones in this post are via the gallery there), plans to build, and a Google map showing the location of Little Free Libraries. The organization was featured on today's episode of NPR's All Things Considered. You can listen to the broadcast or read the transcript here. 


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