The Little Free Library is a positive trend that is not only spreading over the nation, but the world. People, families, communities, organizations, and businesses are all taking part in this simple movement to encourage the love of reading. The concept is basic: a small structure filled with books is placed where passersby can leave a book or take a book. The first one was built by Todd Bol in 2009. He constructed a mini schoolhouse in honor of his school teacher mother who loved reading. He put books inside and a sign labeled “free books.” He soon teamed up with Rick Brooks who saw the possibilities in this do-it-yourself venture. Their mission was to promote literacy with free book exchange. The duo started with a goal of building 2,510 libraries inspired by Andrew Carnegie’s philanthropic establishment of that number of libraries across North America in the late 1800’s. They reached that goal in a year and a half and kept going. There are now over 15,000 libraries worldwide.
With the recent campaign to bring back Reading Rainbow, encouraging a love of books at an early age is a philosophy that many people are getting behind. It’s easy to participate. You can donate or grab a book or build your own library. They are usually made with recycled materials and the creative possibilities are endless. Some mimic the houses behind them, some are shaped like animals, some have beautiful art painted on the sides. I can tell you as a Little Free Library steward myself that it is an enriching endeavor. We planted a homemade one in our front yard about six months of moving into a new neighborhood. It is a great icebreaker with the neighbors and the response in our own community has been great.
In June of this year, one family in Leawood, Kansas was forced to take down the Little Free Library that their son had put up in their yard citing complaints about an “illegal detached structure.” The opinions of the unsupportive neighbors in that community are uncommon. Nine year old Spencer Collins and his family will be appearing before the City Council to appeal the ruling. The Little Free Library Organization has contacted the local government and will support the Collins Family along with the thousands of stewards and supporters of neighborhood lending libraries.