Big Reads Shared at Little Free Libraries
By Tom Long and Stacy Milbouer
Fiddlehead Contributing Editors
Looking for a summer read? How about Robert B. Parker’s cowboy tale “Resolution,” Wally Lamb’s story of depression and recovery “She’s Come Undone,” Michael Shaara’s Civil War novel “Killer Angel” or John Bunyan’s inspirational “The Pilgrim’s Progress?”
They are among the recent selections at the Little Free Library – a lovingly constructed, book-filled cabinet which echoes the architecture of Concord’s East Congregational Church where it beckons from the front lawn.
The East Congregational Church Little Free Library even has a Facebook page to explain the concept: “Anyone may visit the LFL, whether the church is unlocked or not, and the books are the taking: so take a book, leave a book, tell your friends and neighbors.”
The Little Free Library is a global, nonprofit public bookcase movement founded 10 years ago by the late Todd Bol, a teacher from Hudson, Wis. He used wood from an old garage to make a small, red schoolhouse filled with books on a post in his yard to honor his mother, a teacher and avid reader.
The program has grown to nearly 80,000 registered Little Free Libraries in 50 states and 91 countries and claims to be the largest book sharing organization in the world. The nonprofit group’s motto is “take a book, leave a book.”
New Hampshire has well over 100 Little Free Libraries. To check their exact location or a location of any LFL in the world, visit the Little Free Library World Map online at littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap.
Two signs are taped to the glass front of the little library at the East Congregational Church. One reads “This library belongs to everyone.” And one is Emily Dickinson’s poem which begins: “There is no frigate like a book/to takes us lands away.”
You never know where you might find one of these charming outdoor book cabinets. The Little Free Library on Honey Bee Island on the border of New York and Canada is only accessible by boat. The Center for Books at the Library of Congress has one.
There is a Little Free Library on a three-wheel cycle that is wheeled around Worcester and there’s one on the seashore at Long Beach, New York — there’s even one at Harvard University.
This movement is in no way meant to take the place of traditional libraries. The Concord Public Library, the Meredith Public Library and others have created their own outdoor bookcases.
The designs of the libraries are often whimsical. The facade of Wilton’s Little Free Library in a downtown park was designed by architect and Main Street Association member Alison Meltzer to look like the Wilton Public and Gregg Free Library.
“A little free library can provide increased access to books, maybe for people who don’t have books at home. It’s an easy way to pick up a book when you’re walking to the bus, when you’re walking to work. But, it’s also a way for people to connect with your community,” Margret Aldrich, the organization’s programing manager, said in a recent interview. “Libraries are still a great resource for books,” adding that Little Free Libraries are more like “communal gifts.”
According to a study on social mobility conducted in 2010, children growing up in homes without books are academically about three years behind children in homes with plenty of books, and one of the most successful ways to improve their achievement is to increase their access to books.
The Little Free Library website reports that three out of four of their readers say they have read a book they normally would not have if not for the facility and 73 percent report that they have met more of their neighbors than they would have without one.
Nearly all of the visitors to the libraries polled said their mini free library made their neighborhood a more friendly place.