Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Need something to read? Check your neighbor's yard for a free lending library

Courtesy of Facebook post by Max Weiss of Oak Park, Ill.
A friend shared on Facebook today the photo at left of a "Little Lending Library," which was originally posted by Illinois homeowner Max Weiss. I thought, 'What a cool idea!' 

After some Googling, I found there's an organization, Little Free Library, that promotes building and establishing the tiny book exchanges. 

According to an Aug. 12, 2012, article "Lending through Little Libraries" in the Albany, OR, Democrat-Herald, "Todd Bol of Hudson, Wis., developed the Little Free Library program about three years ago as a public way to recognize his mother, a teacher who enjoyed books and encouraged others to read. He built a box, filled it with books and then created a sign that read 'Free Book Exchange.' He put the box on a post outside his house and told neighbors to take a book to read and put another one in the box."

Little Free Library also works to help communities that cannot support a library set up these cool book boxes. Little Free Library's mission is "to promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide; To build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity, and wisdom across generations; and To build more than 2,510 libraries around the world - more than Andrew Carnegie - and then more." They have lots of success stories in the U.S., as well as one in Ghana.

Per the Democrat-Herald article, here's how it works:
  • Participants build, install and register their libraries at and then open up for "business."
  • Librarians fill the boxes with books and invite anyone who wants to take any book home to read. Readers are asked to put other books back in the box so the selection continually rotates.

Courtesy Little Free Library
The lending libraries are sort of a take on a mailbox, but bigger, and usually include decorative touches and windows. They can be as fancy or as plain as the owner wants.

The boxes are "essentially a nicely designed, weatherproof hutch mounted on poles, which contain a collection of about 20 books and a sign that reads 'Take a Book, Leave a Book,'" according to an Aug. 4, 2011, article "In Pursuit of Andrew Carnegie, One Little Free Library at a Time," from Library Journal Archive on the Little Free Libraries.

Courtesy Little Free Library
Courtesy Little Free Library
In that article, Michele Erikson, the executive director of Wisconsin Literacy Inc., said, "I think [the little library] has a lot of potential to grow and spread the love of reading. What I think is most exciting is it brings the community together around reading, which is the core of what we do, and it gets us back to that face-to-face discussion when everything else is so electronic nowadays."

Here's a transcript from a March 7, 2012, "All Things Considered" broadcast "Little Free Libraries Hope For Lending Revolution" on NPR. (You can also listen to the 4-min broadcast via the link).

Like the idea? Little Free Library offers detailed plans (free, although tax deductible contributions are accepted) on its site to build your own little library, also sells finished and unfinished boxes, at prices ranging from $250 to about $1,000.

The site also includes many photos of finished boxes (some are pictured here) and lots of advice and encouragement.

Courtesy Little Free Library
Courtesy Little Free Library
I'm excited to learn about this because The Mercury recently established a free lending library in our new Community Media Lab. It's so new, we haven't created any signs yet, and visitors to are lab have been hesitant to borrow one of our books, audiobooks or DVDs. 

Today I contacted Little Free Library to make us a sign (they offer to do so for free!) Next, The Mercury can register the lending library on their site for about $25 and it will become part of a large national locator map on their site. 

When I visited the map, I found three privately established "Little Free Libraries" not too far from Pottstown. The closest ones to me are located in Myerstown, Lebanon, Doylestown, Upper Black Eddy and Easton.

The interactive map tells you how to contact the library owner, where on the property it is, who it is dedicated to (they are often erected in honor of a loved one) and even supplies photos of each location. The photos of the PA libraries were copyrighted, so I couldn't show them here, but they are much like these other examples I found on the LFL site.

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