They’re Little. They’re Free. They’re Libraries!

2013
02.11

Behold the Little Free Library, proof that some of the best things in life are indeed free. They’re springing up around Duluth (in fact, all over the world) and if you haven’t gotten to one, please do it soon!

If you love books (and what kind of nitwit doesn’t like a good book from time to time?) you will love the convenience of the Little Free Libraries, as well as the surprises therein. Leave a book, take a book. It works just like that!

Little Free Library at 17th and Jefferson Street

I’m not sure when the Little Free Library movement began, but I first heard about it on public radio about a year ago. I wanted one immediately. (Writer in search of handyman who can build one and plant it in my front yard.)

Since I spend so much time online looking up all the important things I need to know (like how to fold crab rangoon before deep frying them) I admit that I spend less and less time at our beautiful large public library. Along with the internet, I buy stacks of books at yard sales and thrift stores all year long, so driving to the library, finding a parking place and hoping I’m not in there so long that I get a ticket… it’s just not something I do on a regular basis anymore. I imagine others experienced the same.

But the Little Free Libraries are all over town, and you never know what you’re going to find. I always carry extra books in my car, and when I discover a LFL, I hop out, leave a few, and browse the selection that others have left.

What exquisite joy!

Little Free Library at 43rd & Luverne

One of my favorites is handily located just around the corner from my house, on 43rd and Luverne Street. I recently found Erin Morgenstern’s Night Circus, Sue Monk Kidd’s Traveling with Pomegranates, and Caron McCullers’ The Member of the Wedding. All in nearly new condition, all free, no “return by” date, no strings, no nothing’. Just good books, there for the taking. (And don’t forget to leave a few of your own.) You’ll find adult fiction and non-fiction, as well as books for little kids and teenagers.

Along with the delight of finding good books (free!) just half a block away, I got an unexpected surprise at the Luverne Street location. Someone had left a stack of beautifully sketched bookmarks, designed on heavy white paper, and I had to have one. When I inspected it further, I realized it was a sketch of the south side of Luverne Street, intricately detailed and brilliant. I emailed artist Byron Johnson, whose name and website were listed on the back, and he wrote back to say that he enjoys creating these slips and hopes to do many more. “I love an unexpected moment of joy in my day so it is fun to pass that on to others,” Bryon wrote, and added that he’d created another block scene for the Jefferson Street Little Free Library. Frankly, I find the bookmarks so endearing that I don’t like to use them for their intended purpose, but would rather save them as pieces of art, which they are. I hope to collect them all, and someday hope we can work out a plan for my street, too.

Byron added, “It is fun to see how people respond positively to these images.  People have been so taken with them that I’ve sold a couple to people who have never even seen the street I drew.  My plan is to get all the Little Free Library streets drawn and distribute the corresponding bookmarks in each library.  I just finished drawing the north side of the 300 block of East 9th street.  Today I will start working on the south side.”

Wow. It’s so interesting to me how a simple idea can be a catalyst for so many other things. Some people decorated their libraries for Christmas. Some added news articles, note cards and pens so you can leave a message. Each visit is personal, private but communal, and leaves me feeling hopeful about the world in general.

Little Free Library at 40th and Dodge Street, Lakeside

The mission statement of the Little Free Library system is simple:

• To promote literacy and the love of reading

• To build a sense of community

• To build ore than 2,510 libraries around the world — even more than Andrew Carnegie managed!

In Duluth, I’ve found Little Free Libraries at these locations:

• 43rd and Luverne Street in Lakeside

• 3892 Allendale Street in Woodland

• 1612 East Skyline Parkway near Kenwood

• 316 East 9th Street in the Central Hillside Area

• 997 84th Avenue West, near Morgan Park (I haven’t actually been to this one yet, but heard about it)

Go find one in your neighborhood today. Or build one of your own, or buy a kit from the organization. What better way to tie a neighborhood together, to get kids to read, get rid of no longer needed books, or to find exciting reads for these cold winter nights.

You can learn more about the Little Free Library movement at www.littlefreelibrary.org.

Find out more about artist Byron Johnson and his work at www.layingfallow.com

Of course I must close with a picture of Winston, my literary cat. He enjoys a good book as much as the next guy. The wider the better!

6 Responses to “They’re Little. They’re Free. They’re Libraries!”

  1. Rosy Bradley says:

    What a delight to find your blog today! And what great subject matter … I love that these little libraries are slowly catching on. I just cannot read a book on a screen – I love the feel of a book in my hand. I like to feel the cover stock … I like to feel the page stock … I appreciate the smell of books … obviously, there are other people out there who look forward to these things as well and are trying to keep it alive! I love the surprise that Byron Johnson is adding to these little libraries in Duluth! What a wonderful keepsake! Thanks for a great blog, Patt!

  2. Patt says:

    Rosy, we’re from another generation, I guess. I still love the smell and feel of books. It’s exciting to hold a great story in your hand. I suppose I could get used to reading on a Kindle, but you know, I don’t read much online, at least for pleasure. Nothing suits me better than a real book, cover to cover. Thanks for writing! Always great to hear from you.

    Patt

  3. Nauru says:

    You are a very bright person!

  4. Cathy says:

    I loved visiting the one near your house when I was there last year. You write a beautiful entry about them, and make me want one for our front yard!

  5. […] neighbor and blogger found one of my bookmarks in our neighborhood Little Free Library and posted this blog entry about her love of the Little Free Library movement.  It is really nice to see the joy the […]

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