The seismic movement known as Little Free Library (LFL) was originated in 2009 by Todd H. Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin as an apt tribute to his mother, a teacher who loved to read. Using recycled materials, he built a small replica of a one room schoolhouse, attached it to a post in his front yard and filled it with an assortment of free books. Happily, he made several more such “book boxes” and gave them all away. Then, Rick Brooks of the University of Wisconsin- Madison joined him and they soon embarked on the phenomenon we have today, with over 50,000 Little Free Libraries in 70 countries.
Bol recently delivered a Peace Pole Library to the Birmingham, Alabama 16th Street Baptist Church, a prominent African-American place of worship, in honor of the four schoolgirls killed when a bomb exploded there 53 years ago. The church later became a symbol of the civil rights movement. Bol also delivered Peace Pole Libraries to Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma, the starting point for the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches in 1965; and Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the congregation from 1954 to 1960.
“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.”
Somewhat akin to Time Banks, LFL’s are a labor of love rewarded by the occasional comment in a journal, a cute chalk drawing on the sidewalk or a donated box of books. The Little Free Library nonprofit has been honored by the Library of Congress, the National Book Foundation and the American Library Association. Whoopi Goldberg just recently noted them as the “top of her favorite things list” on The View. Each year, nearly 10 million books are shared in LFL’s. Seeking them out when traveling is something to do when geocaching or Pokegoing just isn’t your thing. The main site has an international map where you can seek registered LFL’s out by city, state or zip code. Whenever I travel, I always try to seek out any LFL’s in that particular area, take a picture and drop off a book or two. I visited the following libraries in our general area and then later contacted their stewards to answer a few questions, first being how they initially heard about the program.
Shirley Mars #36486/1333 Tallmadge Road, Brimfield said, “I first learned about the LFL while visiting our daughter’s family in Boston. Many of the parks had LFLs that were constantly being visited, and I was intrigued by them. I thought that if they could work in Boston, why not in Brimfield and Suffield?” Located in the northeast square of 43 & 18 (Tallmadge Road), it has an easy, spacious parking area and shaded seating to peruse selections.
Cheryl Hoover NUMC Preschool #26381/852 West Bath Road, Cuyahoga Falls “I opened a LFL last year on the play garden of Northampton Christian Preschool where I am the Director. It’s been a great way to incorporate literacy into our outdoor play space.” Set in a fenced in play area adjacent to and up the hill from the Northampton United Methodist Church. It has a bench to decide on and used to have the Root Café just below it in the church, but I have read that it closed in February. Sad to hear, I attended several quite enjoyable poetry readings there. Primarily children’s books with some young teen, as well.
Jenny Stevenson #41456/165 South Hayden Parkway, Hudson answered, “Our son had a bumpy start to reading in Kindergarten. He became quickly discouraged and had a difficult time focusing and sitting for long periods at his desk in school. He loved visiting the LFL in our old neighborhood and was excited to pick out books. He had no problem focusing on a book while he stretched out in the grass outside. We started taking books outside and reading at the park, in our tree house and around camp fires. This seemed to really motivate our son to read more. This experience for our inspiration for becoming stewards. Our grand opening was June, 2016.” Carter and Lily pull up some grass and dive in.
How exciting to find one inside the Cuyahoga Falls Police Department? It’s next to a small children’s play area and contains mostly younger reading. #26855 is at 1161 Delia Avenue, Akron with nice street parking and landscaping ideas all up and down the street it resides on. So, there you have it. Literacy is alive and well in northeast Ohio. People are sharing their love of a good read and inviting you to do the same.
Interested? Here’s a couple pointers:
• Make sure there are no restrictions in your area that would prevent you from putting up a library structure.
• Try using recycled materials and make it unique. There is a Pinterest group that can give you ideas or go to the official LFL site and look at some of those noted. You dig a hole, stick in a post, back fill the hole then affix a dollhouse-sized cupboard atop said pole and fill it with vivid imagination and intellect food, then become the most popular yard in the neighborhood!
• Give it room for all sizes of books and space for bookmarks, a journal and pamphlets that initially explain the concept. You can add a motion activated, battery powered LED light inside for night browsing and solar lights outside. Consider adding a bench, if you have the room. If you have dog walkers, maybe offer biscuits. (Aldi’s has them cheap enough you won’t go broke making the pooches happy.) You can also add in a geocache to bring a wider chance of readers.
• Hit some Goodwill’s, public library book sales or yard sales if you don’t initially have eager donors. Keep in mind, children’s books are usually taken most. The Twinsburg Library has its own book shop with amazing deals on books! They also have sales on the 2nd Saturday of the month.
• Register your library at littlefreelibrary.org. A Charter sign, giving you your own unique number and making you officially one of many, will run you from $42.45—$89.00. But if you buy your LFL as a kit from the organization, it comes with one. Next, put it on the official map, linked to from the LFL site. The money helps the organization be able to donate library kits to the less fortunate.
• Tell your neighbors you’re open for reading. Create a Facebook page. Host a grand opening! Have authors present with book signings!
• Accept that not just the books may disappear. There is also the chance of vandalism. As with all good, there are those who inflict evil. People may also take your books to sell elsewhere. Sad, but true. You can somewhat prevent that by stamping the inside of your books with your personal LFL stamp. (Available at the LFL site, littlefreelibrary.org)
• Maintain your library! Keep it mostly stocked, leaving room for donations and check what is donated to ensure your intent is honored. If you wind up with too many to store, look up other LFL’s in the area and share! And as I’m sure you have surmised by now, I’m not only a Little Free Library spokesperson, I’m also a steward. I welcome you at 4975 Comanche Trail in Stow. You may find me toiling away in the garden, weather permitting. But if not, feel free to ring the door bell and I’ll offer a cup of coffee and we can talk books (or gardening) on the front porch.
Diane Chambers & Don Parsisson #17708/591 Palisades Drive, Akron told me, “I think it was a story on NPR, just as LFLs were becoming popular. Both Don and I are readers, and we thought it would be something fun to do for the neighborhood. It took us over a year to finally get it up and running, but that was because Don designed and built it over time.” Another of the hand-made LFL’s and the first one I ever visited. Theirs gave me the impetus to get mine done! I then asked what enticed them to become a steward and when their grand opening was.
#2381 2051 Lorena Avenue in Akron
And as I’m sure you have surmised by now, I’m not only a Little Free Library spokesperson, I’m also a steward. I welcome you at 4975 Comanche Trail in Stow. You may find me toiling away in the garden, weather permitting. But if not, feel free to ring the door bell and I’ll offer a cup of coffee and we can talk books (or gardening) on the front porch.
Abby Greer & Amanda Edwards “The LFL first lived right outside the hOur Share Center. This was a brick and mortar location where members could donate time credits to have new and like new items, handmade items as well as food and toiletries. All of the items were donated by mostly time bankers.
"We thought the LFL fit in with the theme. So, the first stock came from members and, in particular, one member, Ralph Oates, who took to caring for the LFL and checking on it almost daily. Ralph Oates was the LFL’s greatest fan.”
When you have a box in your front yard that eagerly accepts donations, one never knows what may wind up behind the door on a shelf. I’ve been lucky on the receiving end, but were they? What was their oddest book donated?
Diane Chambers “12 volumes of a DIY series from 1955. They smelled awful—old book and mold.”
Leah Rafferty “I have a Jehovah Witness group that leaves books or pamphlets. I usually let them stay a few days. Someone has left a Bible and I have received books in different languages.” Since I installed my LFL, I have had more conversations with neighbors and area seekers than I have had in the 34 years prior. Has it made them more popular in their neighborhood?
“People will say, ‘Hi’, if we see them at the library, and some people know who I am just because of the library, so I would say it has.”
Abby Greer & Amanda Edwards “It was a nice addition to downtown Kent and good marketing for our timebank hOur Share.” There were several that I visited that either did not have an email for me to contact them or (possibly) thought I was a Nigerian spammer 31 volume 12 | 2016 • www.aroundkent.net I did a lot of research before I took the plunge and bought my LFL, but not all information can be as easily found, so I asked if they had advice for anyone considering becoming a steward.
Shirley Mars “It is satisfying to know that you are encouraging literacy, so don’t hesitate to become a steward.”
Since I started this article, there have been seven new Little Free Libraries added to the area. Cleveland Clinic/Akron General has donated six to various Akron Elementary schools: (Crouse, 1000 Diagonal Road/Robinson, 1156 4th Avenue/Forest Hill, 850 Damon Street/ Findley, 65 West Tallmadge Avenue/Glover, 935 Hammel Street/Portage Path, 55 S Portage Path) and there is a new one on the map that I have not yet seen, #42906—4530 Kent Road, Stow. (Located in front of Small Steps-Big Strides Child Care.) There are also two new ones in downtown Kent within walking distance of the Time Bank location listed above. One being on Depeyster (shaped like a white bus) and another on Erie (shaped like a hotel) and given their very public location, always in need of books. when I did send them my first inquiry. They may be near you, so I shall list them. nThis enormous lovely is located in the small park alongside Angel Falls Coffee on West Market in Highland Square. There are benches and, most enjoyably, a coffee house where you can try a chapter or two before deciding.
Loved the yard in which #2381 sat in at 2051 Lorena Avenue in Akron. How can you go wrong with a white picket fence? (Guess when I visited it?) On street parking.
Abby Greer & Amanda Edwards Kent Time Bank #10376/Dan Smith Memorial Park, by Bricco’s in downtown Kent ”Amanda found a generous donor for the materials and the Kent Community TimeBank paid time credits to a member to build it.”
This enormous lovely is located in the small park alongside Angel Falls Coffee on West Market in Highland Square. There are benches and, most enjoyably, a coffee house where you can try a chapter or two before deciding.
Peter Wilson #2719/Woodside Drive in Riverwoods, Akron told me “We created our own. I involved a neighbor in designing and constructing ours. We first built a model out of corrugated cardboard, made modifications, and then built the finished product out of plywood.” This gorgeous LFL is set near a walking path in a park setting. Eclectic reads with ample space. Set your GPS for 1227 Woodsview for the best navigation.
Inside the Cuyahoga Falls Police Department