Little Free Libraries Provide a Simple Dose of Literacy

Little Free Library

Little Free Libraries make books accessible to many different community members–for free!
Image: Littlefreelibrary.org

If you’re looking for a simple, effective way to spread literacy in your neighborhood, a Little Free Library may be just what you’re looking for.

In 2009, Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin built a model of a one-room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother. He filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard, thereby creating the first Little Free Library. After building several more to give to friends, his work caught the eye of Rick Brooks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the two decided to officially put together a community enterprise that became known as Little Free Library.

Individuals, businesses, and organizations can purchase Little Free Libraries from the 501(c)(3) non-profit (or build their own and purchase official signage) to put on their property. The little libraries are then filled with books that passersby can take and add to for free.

According to their website, Little Free Library’s mission is to promote literacy though free book exchange and to build community by encouraging people to share skills, creativity, and wisdom across generations. The initial goal—to build 2,510 Little Free Libraries, the same number of libraries built by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in the 20th century—was surpassed in August 2012. In January 2015, there were an estimated 25,000 Little Free Libraries all over the world.

The little wooden structures offer communities a chance to create something unique and useful. For example, Amish carpenter Henry Miller of Cashton, Wisconsin, built a Little Free Library using wood recycled from a 100-year-old barn destroyed in a tornado. Groups often come together to build, paint, and stock the libraries.

“Not all parents take their children to the library,” said Cathy Henderson, who, along with neighbor Kathy Jones, spearheaded the building of a Little Free Library in their hometown of New Orleans. “[Parents] are so busy with work and school and keeping up with household responsibilities that driving to the library is not ‘on the list.’ Here, they can just walk or drive by.”

Houses, coffee shops, and even office waiting rooms have all been home to Little Free Libraries across the world. Official charter numbers and signs allow visitors to the Little Free Library website to check for the nearest location to them on the World Map feature.

What do you think? Would you want a Little Free Library in your neighborhood? What would you like to see in it?

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