I am the very excited new steward of a Little Free Library, Charter # 45900, on Jackson Park Drive in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Our official post-into-the-ground date was December 7, 2016…in the nick of time. This is how it looked that day:
Four days later, we got slammed with ten inches of snow. It might have been difficult to put the post in the ground at that time!
I can't remember when I first heard about Little Free Libraries, but I loved the idea immediately. The first Little Free Library appeared in Hudson, Wisconsin, in 2009. It was Todd Bol's idea and he labeled his library simply "Free Books." He did the project as a tribute to his mother, who was an avid reader and a former teacher.
Now the Little Free Library (LFL) movement is worldwide, a nonprofit with a handy and useful website. Stewards of LFLs have let their imaginations run free, and there are endless creative ideas they employ in their designs, from re-purposing a bread box to carving shelves into a big old tree trunk.
Margaret Aldrich’s The Little Free Library Book includes hundreds of color pictures of libraries from around the world, and showcases many stories behind them. One amazing account tells how a little boy had to fight City Hall to install his library. Most of the stories tell about heart-warming community building accomplished by the LFL ideal of “Take a book – Return a book.”
I first fell in love with libraries when the Milwaukee Public Library bookmobile visited my neighborhood on the northwest side of the city during the 1950s. I can still remember my feeling of excitement as I climbed the tall steps into the bookmobile, and the welcoming smell of the books that flooded me when I got to the top step. I wandered freely – even to the “adult” section – wondering always what mysteries lay between two book covers.
In the photo above, you can just make out the welcome mat that I laid down in front of our LFL. I added the flags and a big “Open” sign as an indication of our grand opening. On the “Open” sign I lettered “FREE BOOKS FREE BOOKS FREE BOOKS FREE BOOKS FREE BOOKS FREE BOOKS.” I figured that would get the message across. I plan to take down the flags tomorrow, after a week of possibly annoying my neighbors with the flags’ loud colors (they do clash with Christmas lights).
The books in my LFL were donated by me, my husband, friends, family, my writing students, and the official LFL organization from which I purchased the kit that my husband screwed and glued together to make our library box. I take special pride in offering works by Wisconsin authors. I included fiction, nonfiction, books that might be enjoyed by men and women, teens, tweens, and little children. We live in an area where many people speak Spanish, so I will include Spanish books when I find them. I haven’t read all the books I included, but I thought they were all worthy of inclusion. I decided I won’t stock anything I wouldn’t read myself.
We have a daily parade of walkers, runners, bikers, and dog walkers on our street. It has been fun to watch people slow down and look…or slow down, walk to the library, and peek inside. I haven’t seen anyone open the door, but a book did disappear around the fourth day, much to my delight. I’ll share my opening library titles and you can guess which book was the first to be taken (HINT: it wasn’t one of my own books, darn it):
Dessert First – by me
Calling All Horses – by me
Dog Woman – by me
Memories Forever – Elaine Schollmeyer
Against All Odds – Chuck Norris
The Middle East – TIME
Industrial Light and Magic – Mark Cotta Vaz
Night of Rain and Stars – Maeve Binchy
Facts about New Zealand
Souljourner – D.L. Marriott
The Hundred Secret Senses – Amy Tan
The Lost and Found Balloon (Spanish/English) – C. Jenkins
Blame it on the Rain – Jennifer Weinberg
Ewe and Eye – Candace Ryan
Happy! – Pharrell Williams
Star Wars Rebels – M. Kogge
The Throne of Fire – Rick Riordan
The Serpent’s Shadows – Rick Riordan
The Odd Squad – Michael Fry
Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul
I Remember Sampson – Darlene Winter
Star Wars Rebels – Inquisitor’s Trap
Star Wars Rebels – Inquisitor
After the first book was taken, I added these:
Cracked Sidewalks and French Pastry – Tom Kertscher
Si-Cology 101 – Si Robertson
Favorite – Karen McQuestion
Seabisquit – Laura Hillenbrand
Have you guessed which book was the first to be taken? It was Amy Tan’s The Hundred Secret Senses. This is not the Nobel nor the Pulitzer, but an award of sorts, I think!
I have communicated a bit with other LFL patrons in my area. One of them said that he can hardly keep up with the swift exchange of books in his library. I am sure my patrons will increase as the weather turns from winter to spring. It will be fun to watch!
Gail Grenier is the author of Dog Woman, Dessert First, Don't Worry Baby, and Calling All Horses, all available on Amazon.com, through the links to the right.