A Little Library That Could

September 5, 2017
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On Independence Day the Little Free Library was decked out in red, white and blue.

By Dorothea Wotton |

FAIR HAVEN – In the age of Kindles, Nooks and audio or online books, a chance to read an old-fashioned, paper book can sometimes be a novelty. But you don’t have to go to a public library or bookstore to find them.

You may have noticed miniature houses lined with books on the edge of your neighbors’ properties, or even in public spaces. These Little Free Libraries provide the public with books that visitors can exchange with other readers. “Take a book, leave a book,” is the popular slogan.

This continuous swapping allows the libraries to offer a selection of books ranging from children’s picture books to sci-fi novels. No two libraries are the same, and many have a theme, such as Dr. Seuss, telephone booths or birdhouses. Not only are these libraries amusing, they’re sustainable and friendly to people of all socioeconomic statuses. You don’t need a library card and there are no late fines.

The movement began with Todd Bol from Wisconsin, who constructed a mini replica of a red schoolhouse in honor of his mother, a book lover and teacher. Then he received requests from his neighbors for their own libraries. Today, the Little Free Library website boasts that there are more than 50,000 registered Little Free Libraries globally, and sells kits to assemble your own library. The nonprofit strives to “inspire a love of reading, build community, and spark creativity.”

Dorothea, at far right, with her family: her brother Rodney, mother Pat, aunt Bren Ross-Greene and grandmother Dorothy Greene.

My family and I noticed these libraries springing up in various neighborhoods, but none in our town. Coming from a family of avid readers – my mother is a member of a book group, my grandmother read me bedtime stories religiously, and my aunt is a media specialist in Florida schools – we were inspired to build our own.

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My brother Rodney, 15, contacted Dave Murch, a family friend for help. “Absolutely,” said Mr. Murch, who lives in Colts Neck. Murch is a software engineer and spends much of his free time indulging in his hobby of woodworking and architecture, often with his two sons, now ages 20 and 22. His accomplishments include home improvement projects, such as installing moulding and building a cabana beside his pool.

Rodney and Mr. Murch used plans from the Little Library website and built a Little Free Library, fashioned with roof shingles, and a magnetic door. My aunt and I painted the library yellow to match our house. It has two shelves: the top is reserved for adult reading, such as “The Girl on the Train,” or “The DaVinci Code” and the bottom for children’s books, such as “Where the Red Fern Grows” and “What’s Up, Duck?” Young adult books, like “The Hunger Games,” are popular.

Dave Murch of Colts Neck and Rodney Wotton of Fair Haven built a Little Free Library for neighbors to share books with one another.

“It was great fun,” said Mr. Murch about the project. “I’m so glad it came out well and that it can help people. I would definitely do it again.”

We kicked off our library with a few books of our own and some from friends. Since then we have had a steady stream of donated books. We often leave treats for our library patrons, too.

Our library also changes with the seasons. For Christmas, we decorated it with silver bells and a miniature tree. On Valentine’s Day it wore a pink tinsel heart. It showed its patriotism on the Fourth of July with bunting and American flags.

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The library also contains a small journal where visitors may leave notes. Although we’ve never met our library visitors, we’ve enjoyed reading the messages from the young and old.

One visitor wrote: “What a wonderful neighborly thing to do! Grabbed one for my son … Will be bringing others back soon.”

And another wrote: “Today is my 20th birthday and I decided I’d travel to a bunch of Little Free Libraries today! I love yours so much. I added in ‘Shine’ and ‘The Hunger Games.’ Spread the love of young adult literature!”

And one of our favorite messages came written in a child-like scrawl: “I love how you guys do this and I love to read so I love that you guys do this library.”

For information on building your own little library, visit littlefreelibrary.org.

Dorothea Wotton is a rising senior at Trinity Hall. When she’s not playing volleyball, studying or reading, she helps in the news- room at The Two River Times.

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