Throughout the past five years, miniature versions of libraries have been appearing in numerous towns all over the country. Some are bright, some are quirky, some are classy, and some are plain. All of them, however, promote the same idea.
“There’s something mysteriously wonderful and ineffable about someone putting up one of these in their neighborhood,” said Ginny Reese, the Greene County Library branch manager. “There’s a surprise element, because you never know what you might find there.”
The main idea behind the little libraries is to increase communication and promote reading between neighbors by having them recommend and leave books for others. Anyone can leave a book, and anyone can take a book. Part of the Little Free Library mission is “to build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.” A person who leaves a book can fill out one of the forms inside the little library to share with others their name, the title of the book they left, and why they enjoyed it. This allows for a more personal connection between the person leaving the book and the person who eventually chooses to read it.
“As Marissa Holmes, treasurer of the Friends of Greene County Library, put it most succinctly during a recent discussion at a Friends Board meeting, ‘Little Free Libraries are not really about free books, they are about love.’ It’s a subtle but important distinction that is integral to the Little Free Library movement,” Reese said.
Reese was introduced to the Little Free Library phenomenon by two other library staff members, Holly Huffman and Amy Pence-Lanctot. The group then decided to create a Little Free Library of their own, and the Friends of the Greene County Library adopted the project. The Friends paid the $50 fee to register Greene’s little library with Little Free Library, Ltd., which is the registered nonprofit organization responsible for the movement.
A friend of the library, Tim Leavitt, donated the materials to build Greene’s Little Free Library and even built it himself. Pence-Lanctot, with the help of Reese, painted the Little Free Library, and embellished it with vines and flowers. The Greene County Library staff looks after the tiny library and ensures that people are not simply taking away all the books at once.
“We see an amazing variety of all kinds of books passing through the little library, including books for adults, teens, and children,” Reese said. “There are plenty of great older books, and often newer titles are found inside too.”
As stewards of the Little Free Library, the Friends of the Greene County Library would like to encourage borrowers and lenders to use the recommendation forms inside the Little Library and to donate special books they have loved and would like to pass on, rather than making wholesale drops of large number of books.
“There are no rules like a borrower having to leave a book in order to take one, but we hope that users will pass books on, once read, back to this Little Free Library, or to another friend,” Reese said. “The idea is to become part of this little community of sharing books, and to pay forward one kindness to another.”
Andrew Carnegie’s support of 2,509 free public libraries at the turn of the twentieth century was one inspiration behind the Little Free Library movement. The project’s goal was to build the same amount of little libraries, and this goal was reached in December 2012. By the start of 2014 over 15,000 Little Free Libraries were registered, with thousands more in the process of being built.
For more information on the Little Free Library project, visit littlefreelibrary.org.