Have you ever been taking a walk and come across a tiny wooden LIBRARY in a neighbor’s yard?? I have, and boy was I was intrigued! I went up and checked it out and learned that they are called “Little Free Libraries”. They are an amazingly kind trend that has spread all across the country, actually, around the WORLD!! As of January 2016 there were over 36,000 registered Little Free Library book exchanges – some in every single state in the USA and also in 70 other countries!!!
“Just what ARE Little Free Libraries (LFLs)??” you ask. Well, first off they look like this:
|Classic, simple, elegant|
|Color, wild, and zany|
And one of the ones in my neighborhood looks like THIS:
|BEAUTIFUL and matches the house!|
They are small (usually) wooden repositories for BOOKS of all kinds. The LFL librarians (also known as stewards) keep them stocked. And here is the best part – the books are not to LEND, they are to TAKE! So it is neighbors sharing books with neighbors!! Isn’t that fabulous?? They function on the honor system – so if you take a book today, it sure would be nice if you brought back a book (or 2 or 3) the next time you are in the neighborhood. J
Ever since I saw a LFL a couple of years ago I have thought it would be awesome to have one. We live in an area with a lot of walking traffic and I think if we put up a LFL it would have a lot of users! Alas, real LFLs do not come cheap… The most inexpensive one on the website is $149, and if you spend any amount of time perusing the choices of LFLs you will undoubtedly decided you “need” one of the fancier models. I mean, just LOOK at the “Modern Two Story”!!
|Isn't this a cool design??|
The official website explains that it is understood that not everyone can afford to purchase a “real” LFL and makes some great suggestions about repurposing other items and turning them into free libraries. I may do that someday.
But in the meantime, I am lucky to have a few LFLs within walking distance of my home, so I decided to contact Michael Rhode, a LFL “librarian”, to learn about why he has a LFL in his yard. Here is what he told me:
|Michael's LFL in the snow!|
“First, one has to be a booklover. That leads one down all kinds of paths. I had read about them (LFLs) in the Washington Post, and thought they were interesting. A few months later, I needed an idea for Christmas so I bought one for a family gift for Christmas 2013. The family may not have completely agreed with the thoughtfulness of the gift. My daughter and I painted it and opened it up in February 2014. Now that it is up and running I do most of the upkeep and swapping out of the books when something is just not moving. My wife arranges the books so people can actually tell what's in the library.”
|Michael and his daughter painting their LFL|
When I asked him how having the LFL makes him feel, he told me, “Well, selfishly, it's a way to see new books that other people put in, and to move on books that I don't want. Also, everybody knows it as an Alcova Heights (Arlington, VA) landmark now. In the end though, I love books, and love sharing them, and can't bear to see unwanted books, so it's a feeling of satisfaction.”
I was curious if users of the LFL left him thank you notes, and he said that they do not, but that many people thank him in person. And when I asked him to speculate on how his library makes the people who benefit from it feel, he said, “Most people seem to think it’s right neighborly”. J I say, if you are lucky enough have a LFL that you frequent in your neck of the woods, take a moment to write or draw a little thank you and put it in the library!
I wondered how much WORK it would take to run a LFL, and he assured me that once you build one and get it all in the ground, there is not a lot involved. He explained that the things you have to focus on most are “overflow” – i.e. having TOO MANY books for your library, and having books get “stale”. He gives stale books to our local county library for their annual sale.
|Rain, snow, or sun - the LFL is a good addition to the neighborhood|
Of course, since he is so involved in the library, I had to ask him what his favorite book is, right? He told me, “I read so much that I don't have a favorite book anymore I'm afraid. I'd recommend “The Art of Richard Thompson” of which I'm an editor. As a teen, my favorite was Roger Zelazny's five-volume fantasy story “The Chronicles of Amber”, and that still has a place in my heart.”
I think purchasing, putting together, installing, and RUNNING a LFL for your community is an act of kindness. It shares not only books, but joy with the neighborhood, free of charge! But Michael doesn’t look at his library as a kindness. He said, “Well, I don't really consider it kindness, but it's fun and it makes people happy. Anyone who likes to have a nice chat about reading with someone new on a sunny day should consider putting a LFL up. I love to find a new one, and will often go out of my way to stop by and check them out.”
Thanks for helping the neighborhood have things to read, Michael! And maybe you have inspired some others to put up a LFL in their yard!! If you want to learn more about LFLs or see where you can find one near you, visit: Little Free Library website
Michael, thanks for making Arlington a better place. You might not look at your LFL as an act of kindness, but I sure do. I say you are a Kindness Activist!! Thanks for having a positive impact on our community.