Some time ago I had noticed a large letterbox type structure out the front of a house in my neighborhood. It was essentially a small glass fronted cupboard mounted on a pole. And it seemed to be filled with books! A voracious reader myself, I thought it was just a charming ‘objet d’arte’ to showcase the residents passion.
Even though this is right around the corner from me, it’s not somewhere I walk regularly (I do walk places, promise!). I usually drive past on the school carpool run and need to be extra vigilant about children, dogs, multiple large 4 wheel drives in a tiny street and so on. I managed to catch a glimpse of a sign on it that I thought said “little feet library”. My curiosity piqued, I googled it and came across Little Free Library. And yes, that is exactly what it was. A little, free library established by the residents of that house for the enjoyment and benefit of their local community.
Little Free Library originated in Wisconsin in 2009. A registered non-profit organisation, they promote community, literacy for children and adults and support literacy and library programs in Africa, Latin America and Asia.
Our conservative estimate of Little Free Libraries in the world is between 5,000 and 6,000 in 36 countries. We estimate than at least 1,650,000 books were donated and borrowed between January, 2010 and today. For every book donated or taken to read, we believe that five to ten people stopped and perused the selection. That translates to between 8,250,000 and 16,500,000 visits.
That’s a lot of reading…
Mr 6 and I have now been a couple of times, exchanging books and adding to the communal collection. It felt a little odd the first time, kind of like rifling through someone’s letterbox… is anybody watching me?? On our last visit, I discovered a guest book and wrote a message along the lines of how much I loved the idea and thanking them for it. It felt good to be able to show a level of engagement.
I’ve since visited my municipal library to borrow some non-fiction books I needed for researching a couple of projects and grabbed a couple of my favourite detective novels whilst I was there. There’s just something a bit more special about the Little Free Libraries books though – it’s almost a like a connection with neighbours whose hands have touched those same pages. I’ve always been a re-reader of books, particularly series, so I love the idea of books moving through many hands and imaginations.
If this little library wasn’t directly around the corner from our house, I’d be building one of our own, especially as we get a lot of foot traffic with people walking to and from the bush sanctuary. Maybe I will anyway… I haven’t found many in Australia as yet but you can check online to see if there is one near you. There are also loads of gorgeous pics on Pinterest of the Little Libraries around – for a touch of whimsy I particularly love the Tardis and the Babar themed ones.
I think what I love most about this idea is that notion of sharing within the community. From the heart. No strings. Just spreading joy.
Does your local neighbourhood have a way of sharing resources or creating community? How can we open ourselves and others to possibilities?