We recently installed a Little Free Library at the park by our house. Have you heard of this movement? It’s a free book exchange you can place at your home or neighborhood. It usually looks like some sort of little house or wooden box on a post. However, if you look on the Internet, you will see that the libraries can take many shapes and sizes. The way it works is that you bring a book you have already read, and exchange it for a book you want to read. It’s such a simple little process, but it has already brought us so much much joy in the few weeks it has been up.
My first time seeing one and hearing what they were all about was last year when I attended the MAKE(R) Weekend my dear friend Mandy hosted at her house. She lives in the historic Lincolnville district of St Augustine. One of the houses down her street had the most adorable little house with books in it. Mandy explained what it was and how it worked. Her daughter gets books from it frequently. I was in love with everything about it! Every box is unique. Different sizes, different designs, different selections. And it is ever-changing, as the flow of books coming in an out organically creates a new selection every time you look in it. Upon coming home, I told Brian all about it, and the next time we were in St Augustine, I brought the whole family to come see it. We even stumbled upon another one in a different part of town. It was settled. We knew we wanted one!
I went on their website and was smitten by what I found. It’s a literacy movement that is spreading rapidly. The mission of Little Free Library is:
To promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide and to build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.
It took about a year to finally get on this project, but once we started, it went quickly. The website for the Little Free Library is extremely helpful. Plus, as you can imagine, with 32,000 “official” LFL’s across the globe, there is a lot of additional information all over the web from their owners.
For those people who are not likely to build their own library, you can purchase one from them. They are not cheap, but I can see how that would be a handy option for someone who does not have the tools or capacity to build their own. They also offer tips and plans on how to build one, which is what we did. Brian enjoys building things and projects like these are perfect to involve the boys. So one weekend, they purchased the materials and began! It probably cost less than $100 in materials and about 5 hours of work. The boys relished being a part of the hammering, drilling and sanding that was involved.
After the structure was completed, we got to painting it. The boys gave me direction on what they wanted it to look like, and I got on it. The little library lived on our dining table for a few weeks while it was being painted. Once it was finished, all it needed was a little clear coat to protect it from the weather and it was ready to go up. Simple, right? Uh, no. Nothing ever goes that smoothly. Brian purchased what he thought was a clear wood sealant and proceeded to cover the entire library. The clear was more like a yellow stain that probably would have not been noticeable on wood, but on white paint, it turned everything white a dingy brownish yellow. Ugh! There was no way around it, but sanding it back down and repainting. I wanted to whine and stomp my feet, thinking of all the hours of work down the drain. I quickly realized that there was a silver lining. In retrospect, I am happy it happened because it gave us an opportunity to model to Ben and Max that sometimes you have to start over. They were encouraging me, telling me to get back on the horse and do it again. Inside, I was smiling a bit over the lesson being taught. Is that weird of me? Probably.
Finally, it was ready to go up. We decided that since we live right by a neighborhood park, that would be the ideal place for it and that our library would feature only books for children. The park sees many families that would get to enjoy the books. I was a bit nervous about asking the city for permission, but was happily surprised that it was a breeze. Thank you City of Ocala! That was about 3 weeks ago. Shortly after we put it up, there was a torrential downpour. Brian ran to the box to make sure everything stayed dry, and thankfully it did. We are keeping an eye on the condition, and as soon as this Florida humidity dips, we will spray it with a clear coat that it actually CLEAR.
As I mentioned earlier, this Little Free Library has been an unexpected joy for us. We didn’t set out for it to be a community service project, really. We did it for the opportunity for the kids to build something with their dad, design something with their mom, and to give them the opportunity to be a part of taking something from an idea to reality. Obviously, we thought it would enhance the neighborhood, but we never visualized the response we would receive from others.
So many positive things have happened since we put it up. We keep a book donation basket on our front porch, where we have received dozens of book donations already. I see the library from my bedroom window, and people stop at it all the time. Our favorite thing is seeing dads reading to their kids at the park. A friend of mine who teaches UCF education majors here locally invited me to come speak to her students about our library. They have decided to make this their service project for the month of October and will be coming to meet me at the end of the month to donate books. We have received kind comments and cards from the neighbors that received a note we put in their mailboxes explaining the library. And everywhere we go, people go out of their way to say something nice.
One question we have received several times though is, “Are you going to put up others?” The answer is no. We are taking full responsibility for the stocking, maintenance and care of this one. I would love to add little enhancements to it in the coming weeks, like a little box to put notes in, or maybe start putting in some “themed” selections. I want to make sure we do a good job, so we won’t do another one. BUT…we do hope it inspires other people to put up one on their own street, park or wherever they see a need.
Have you seen a Little Free Library near you? Would you consider putting one up at your home or neighborhood? If you are looking for ideas to get your creative juices flowing, check out their Pinterest board.