Little Free Libraries provide different personal connections to a communityAug 11, 2021 11:49AM ● By Karmel Harper
Visit Lindsey Lyman’s Little Free Library located at 10846 South Tahoe Way in South Jordan. (Photo courtesy of Lindsey Lyman.)
By Karmel Harper | [email protected]
Andrew Carnegie said, “A library outranks any other thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.”
Carnegie’s belief that a free library gives people the chance to educate and lift themselves regardless of wealth and status is exhibited in his accomplishment funding and building 2,508 public libraries in his lifetime.
Inspired by the 20th century titan of industry, Todd Bol and Rick Brooks of Wisconsin set a similar goal to build libraries. In 2009, Bol built a model of a one room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother who was a teacher who loved to read. He filled it with books and installed it on a post in his front yard where neighbors and friends could “take a book and leave a book.” It was such a success that Bol built several more and gave them away. In 2010, Brooks and Bol established the name “Little Free Library” and the first official Little Free Library was installed on a bike path in Madison, Wisconsin that summer. Within a few months, thousands of people had seen the library and Brooks and Bol continued to give away Little Free Libraries that included wooden signs engraved with official charter numbers.
By the end of 2012, the same year Little Free Library became a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the pair surpassed Carnegie’s library count of 2,508 as they established over 4,000 libraries
Lindsey Lyman of South Jordan is celebrating the 5-year anniversary of her Little Free Library. Lyman installed her library as a birthday gift to herself, needing something positive to focus on while undergoing fertility treatments. Shortly after Lyman erected the structure, the doorbell rang and there were overflowing bags of brand new books ranging in different age groups and genres. It also included a gift card worth several hundred dollars for the purchase of more books. Lyman said, “I cried big happy tears as I knew that our journey with our library was going to be a positive one.” To this day, the benefactor is anonymous. Five years and two adopted children later, Lyman has met so many wonderful people in her community as well as discovered awesome new books from visiting other neighborhood Little Free Libraries every Friday with her kids. Lyman also does regular reading programs and challenges for her library guests and is celebrating their milestone anniversary with newly designed bookmarks, stickers, popsicles and prizes.
The success of the Little Free Library program runs on an honor system embracing the “take a book, leave a book” mindset. People are welcome to take as many books as they please and they can either return them or keep them forever as long as they replace the books they take. This mentality not only fosters a constant turnover in titles by providing book diversity but also promotes neighborhood connection via the shared experience of reading the books together.
The Little Free Library program offers exposure to local authors and gives them the opportunity to share their work with the local community. Michelle Edge recently moved to South Jordan from Georgia and has published four children’s books which she has written and illustrated herself including a series entitled, “The Adventures of Sissy Dog” which are rhyming books. Based on the true stories and imaginative adventures from her childhood, her books are available for sale on Amazon and in Target and Walmart.
Edge loves to drive around town and donate her books in Little Free Libraries. Edge said, “I’m a big advocate for literacy, especially now that we live in a world where verbal socialization and mingling is on the back burner. I love it when locals walk up to me in public and recognize me from a book I put in their community’s box. It’s a way for me to connect with people. I’m a huge advocate for parents spending quality time with their kids, especially since my books are targeted towards children learning how to read.” Edge has donated her books to Little Free Libraries in Daybreak and Herriman.
To date there are over 100,000 registered Little Free Libraries in 108 countries worldwide. The Little Free Library website (www.littlefreelibrary.org) includes an interactive map that allows you to input your zip code and locations near you will pop up.
To the traveler, it is a wonderful way to enjoy a book provided by a local resident, perhaps in a country and culture that is new to you. When Mark Brown visits the Daybreak area he rides his bike around the neighborhood to visit the Little Free Libraries to get his reading material for their stay. Brown said, “I love this program and thank those who donate.”
If you would like to start a Little Free Library in your neighborhood and get more information on how to build one, visit www.littlefreelibrary.org.