Little Free Library – by Kelly Unsworth

Read Kelly Unsworth’s column in the August 16, 2013 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin. Kelly is a children’s librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library.

This summer in the library, the Jr. Friends have been working on one of my favorite volunteer projects of the season, the Morrill Memorial Library’s version of “little free libraries”; those gnome-like creations that have been springing up for years across the country, and more recently in the Boston area. As far as I know, and I would love to be proven wrong about this, there are none in Norwood. Or shall I say, none “yet”.

The simple concept behind these Lilliputian libraries began in Wisconsin in 2009, by Todd Bol who built the first little free library and filled it with books for all to take in honor of his mother, a book lover, who had passed away. The library was physically small, no larger than an oversized mailbox, but the idea took off like a cheesy romance novel. People of all walks of life who had seen the libraries in places that they had visited began planting these birdhouse like structures on their front lawns and filling them with books, and looking with pleasure as neighbors helped themselves. Take a book, leave a book has always been the motto of the free library, although if you have no book to leave no on minds. There are no library cards, no over dues, and no set collection of books, although some collections may reflect a local flavor.

So why has it become so popular? The idea seems quite simple, fill a container with books for all to enjoy. But I believe it is because it is so much more; this is community involvement at its best. This is a desire to reach out to your neighbors, make new friends, share ideas. What better way to build a sense of community and pride than by building and sustaining neighborhood libraries that will ultimately take on the personalities in size, shape, and collections of those who use them?

So this summer I am jumping on this idealistic community movement, in hopes of igniting a small flame. The Jr. Friends of the Library have been busy packing cardboard boxes filled with library donations of children’s books. Each box contains about 20 books; a combination of easy readers, chapter books, and teen books. All of the books are popular, and although they are all in good shape, most aren’t perfect as they have been “previously loved”. But the boxes are decorated, and the books are free to children. There is only one rule: take a book if you would like one. The hope is that everyone will leave a book when they can to continue this wonderful tradition. The boxes will sprout up in places that children frequent, like ice cream stores, supermarkets, and laundry mats.

Perhaps one day soon more “little free libraries will mysteriously appear in Norwood neighborhoods, featuring the style, skill, and creativity of the maker or makers. Building plans, suggestions and ideas are avaiIable online, and this would make a wonderful project for a Scout group. Be sure to email me if you should decide to launch your own library, I will be sure stop by to check it out and borrow a book.

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