Across the country, libraries are popping up. And not the traditional municipal faculties with reading rooms, thousands of tomes and internet cafes – Little Free Libraries. These birdhouse-sized structures are filled with maybe a dozen books, free to whoever might want to pick up a good read.
According to the Little Free Libraries’ website, the program started in 2009 by Wisconsin man Todd Bol as a way to honor his deceased mother, a former school teacher and avid reader. Bol modeled the box with the books after a one-room schoolhouse and placed it in his front yard. He affixed a sign that read “FREE BOOKS,” and the novels, along with the idea, began spreading.
“I built it [the library] out of an old garage door,” Bol said during a TEDx talk. “I placed this little free library outside. Now, fast forward today… this one little library in 2009 has turned into 10,000 libraries today.”
Little Free Libraries are part of a global network. Anyone is encouraged to build a library, place it in a public place and register their library on the program’s website. Individuals, private businesses and public officials have all picked up on the idea.
“We’re in 50 countries, 50 states, and we’re growing at a rate of 1,000 libraries a month,” Bol said.
The program’s website recommends a Little Free Library have at least one person in charge of making sure the structure is well maintained and fully stocked. Participation is not strictly regulated, with community members simply encouraged to “take a book, return a book,” mostly relying on the honor system.
One community embracing the program is Parkersburg, W.Va. The town erected a Little Free Library last month on the grounds of an Episcopal church, in hopes it will lead to a more literate populace, according to local paper, the News and Sentinel. “Reading is one of the most important things to learn, and we want to make sure kids – and anyone else – has access to a book,” Rev. Marjorie S. Bevans, of Good Shepherd Church, told the paper.
The pink, house-shaped structure was built and donated by the parents of Parkersburg City Councilwoman Kim Coram. "We saw this as a way to not only get kids excited about reading, but also get the community out and talking to each other," Councilwoman Coram told the paper.
The library plays into the church’s Summer Reading Camp, according to the paper. The weeklong camps helped 15 students struggling with their reading comprehension. These students were at risk of falling behind, and it is hoped they will return to the Little Free Library CAPS often.
“It is our belief that children who are read to and read on their own do better in life,” Bevans told the paper. “By having the books here for them and their parents makes a world of difference.”
For more information, or to learn how to make a library of your own, visit www.littlefreelibrary.org