News & Events

Little Free Libraries

As you know from a past newsletter, I have been walking in my neighborhood during my lunch break to try to keep the COVID-19 "15" from appearing on my hips, tummy, & derriere -  you get the picture!

Well I've come across three of these adorable Little Free Libraries - all uniquely as different as the homeowners who have installed them in their front yards.

The third one is in a neighbor's yard that I personally know. He came out to say hi and I asked him about his Little Free Library. He said his wife actually found the box complete with a door. He being a carpenter,  cut out the front, added a piece of plexiglass, then attached the "roof" on top, and mounted it to a post purchased at the local lumber store. 

Humble Beginnings

In 2009, Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, built a model of a one room schoolhouse. It was a tribute to his mother; she was a teacher who loved to read. He filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard. His neighbors and friends loved it, so he built several more and gave them away.

UW-Madison’s Rick Brooks (retired from Little Free Library 2014) saw Bol’s do-it-yourself project while they were discussing potential social enterprises. Together, the two saw opportunities to achieve a variety of goals for the common good.

They were inspired by community gift-sharing networks, “take a book, leave a book” collections in coffee shops and public spaces, and most especially by the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

Around the turn of the 20th century, Carnegie set a goal to fund the creation of 2,508 free public libraries across the English-speaking world.

That goal inspired Brooks and Bol to set their own goal of surpassing 2,508 Little Free Libraries by the end 2013. They wound up exceeding that goal in August of 2012, a year and a half before their target date.

Books can be purchased inexpensively at your local thrift store, Friends of the Public Library store, and of course, your friends may have books that they'd love to donate to this sweet cause!

I went to their website and found this:

Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.

Through Little Free Library book exchanges, millions of books are exchanged each year, profoundly increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds.

Why Does Book Access Matter?

Academically, children growing up in homes without books are on average three years behind children in homes with lots of books, even when controlled for other key factors. One of the most successful ways to improve the reading achievement of children is to increase their access to books, especially at home. But two out of three children living in poverty have no books to call their own.

Little Free Library book-sharing boxes play an essential role by providing 24/7 access to books (and encouraging a love of reading!) in areas where books are scarce. At the Little Free Library nonprofit, we’re working to fill book deserts and place libraries where they can make a big impact through our Impact Library Program. We’ve donated more than 1,000 libraries through this program to-date.

We also maintain a world map of registered Little Free Library boxes to help people find and share books wherever they are, and we have donated more than 1,000 Little Free Library book exchanges (and counting!) to communities where books are scarce through our Impact Library Program.

Here are some Little Free Library Stats:

  • 3 out of 4 people report they’ve read a book they normally would not have read because of a Little Free Library.                                    
  • 73% of people say they’ve met more neighbors because of a Little Free Library.
  • 92% of people say their neighborhood feels like a friendlier place because of a Little Free Library

During these unprecedented times making our neighborhoods feel more personal and friendly is SO important. If you are not handy enough to make your own library, you can purchase one (and the post) directly from their website!

Now my biggest dilemma is what is mine going to look like... I'm open to your suggestions!

Contributed by Cindie Reilly
MLHMGT Board member

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The Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour is a yearly, self-guided charity event held by the Mary Lou Heard Foundation, a California nonprofit organization dedicated to continuing Mary Lou's life work.

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