I first noticed a Little Free Library last summer. It was a secluded oasis of books almost hidden underneath a majestic canopy of trees on downtown Fargo’s historic 8th Street.
Now I see them all over the country when I travel and they’re popping up all over my neighborhood too. And they never fail to make me smile.
Photo by Eddie Gonzalez
The concept is simple. Homeowners put out a box full of books and passerby can take a book or leave a book to share whenever they like. It’s totally free and sort of a residential version of the “take a book, leave a book” shelf at your favorite coffee shop.
When my friend Eddie posted this photo of a Little Free Library on Facebook, it make me realize that maybe I wasn’t the only adult that felt strangely attracted to these little libraries.
They’re kind of magical, when you think about it. You’re just ambling along, thinking about your day, your commute and your to-do list when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a library appears. It’s the kind of thing my younger self would have loved.
I was a voracious reader as a kid, a shy, bookish, awkward little thing who checked out the limit at our small town school library, stalked the Bookmobile that came during the summer and read my grandma’s copy of “Gone with the Wind” when I was ten and back issues of Cosmo waaaaaaay before it was probably appropriate to do so.
My parents limited the television watched (something I hated at the time, but I’m grateful for now) but they let me read whenever and whatever I wanted, no restrictions, no rules.
Photo by Eddie Gonzalez
I’m absolutely certain that this freedom to wander the literary world made me the writer — and the person — I am today. And it seemed like there were never enough books.
That might not be a problem in the future if the Little Free Library Project keeps growing. The movement — and its network of affiliated literacy organizations — has spread like wildfire since Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin made the very first Little Free Library to honor his mother, a book-loving former school teacher.
He partnered with Rick Brooks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison to organize the cause. Now you can get tips on how to create and fill your library, order kits to make your own and see a map of locations near you.
I think it’s so cool how this project combines a love of reading, community building and public art. And I’ve noticed that once one library pops up, it inspires other people to start their own.
That’s what happened to Pat Pobst. She started her own library in her front yard at 1608 39 ½ Avenue South in Fargo (that’s her library and her grandsons in the photo below) and inspired her friends and neighbors to do the same.
Photo by Pat Pobst
“I was inspired by a teaching colleague to start our library,” says Pat. “Last summer she and I were involved with the group that brought Todd Bol to Fargo to present at the TEDx forum.” Pat received one of Bol’s library kits and built it at DIY Wood Studio, a local workshop in town.
“With the help of my son, I put my finished library up in August of 2013,” she continues. “We had visitors within minutes as I was trying to fill it with books. They were bringing books to add to the collection. I could tell you many fun stories about how the library has introduced us to many people in our neighborhood, including parents and grandparents. We love to watch children and adults excited about finding a good book.”
Pat says these little ones — the granddaughters of a neighbor — sometimes get so excited that they have to sit down on the sidewalk or the lawn and read their books right away.
Photo by Pat Pobst
Kristi Hallock, another local educator, started her own library at 1437 9th Street in Fargo. “I have lights on my library for evening browsing,” she says. “I love to see people getting books.”
I’ve been throwing around landscaping ideas on Pinterest for over a year now and now I’ve totally started pinning ideas for a library, too. I’ve seen everything from rough-hewn crates to ultra sleek, modern cubes that look like something out of a design magazine, so this could get interesting!
Have you ever used a Little Free Library? Do you have one in your yard? Do you take a book or leave a book anywhere else when you have a chance? I’d love to hear about it! Just comment below the post or on any of Prairie Style File’s social media sites. Happy reading!
Photo by Kristi Hallock
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