These Community Book Boxes Are Spreading the Love of Reading
Take a good look the next time you stroll down the block or ride your bike through the neighborhood. A Little Free Library might just be hidden in plain sight.
Little Free Libraries are boxes where anyone is welcome to take a book or leave a book. They come in all shapes and sizes, but most are wooden bookcases with a glass door so you can see the collection of books inside. Use your imagination, and it almost looks like a cute little cottage filled with good reads. And these libraries can be anywhere: in local parks, along trails, outside community centers or even in the front yard of a fellow bookworm.
NEPA Has Over 60 Little Libraries (And Counting)
Our own communities have joined a global book-sharing movement.
The Little Free Library headquarters is based in Wisconsin, but the nonprofit helps to inspire readers around the world. There are over 100,000 Little Free Library boxes worldwide, including dozens right here in NEPA.
Little Libraries run on the honor system. No special library cards. No due dates. No need to leave anything in return. The main goal is to simply get books into the hands of as many people as possible.
Each Library Has Its Own Story
The boxes—and the hardworking people behind them—help create a sense of community.
Stories aren’t just confined to the pages of a book—the libraries usually have an interesting history behind them too. Some are service projects created by local community groups. Others are built in memory of a loved one. Sometimes book lovers make them simply to share the joy of reading with others.
Grace Conner, a current student at King’s College, created the Little Library of Swoyersville in 2017 for her Girl Scout Gold Award. She serves as the library’s “steward,” the person who takes care of the box and makes sure it’s fully stocked.
“I always loved to read as I was growing up, so I wanted every kid in my town to have that opportunity,” she said.
When Grace originally built the library, she thought it would be tough to find enough books to fill it. But the community rallied behind her and donated so many books that she not only filled the library, but also gave books to each kindergarten class at Dana Street Elementary. She also sent books to Houston, Texas, to replenish the Little Libraries that were destroyed during Hurricane Harvey.
Normally, the Little Library of Swoyersville has separate shelves for adults, teens and kids. However, Grace recently decided to fill it exclusively with kids’ books in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Her former history teacher’s son had been diagnosed with leukemia, and his story inspired her to take action.
“I felt like I could definitely raise awareness through this Little Library. I made a post about it the day I changed it over. I think the post said on Facebook that it reached 4,000 people and had 36 shares,” she said. “That was my favorite thing that I did with the Little Library.”
Don’t Underestimate the Power of a Good Book
With some schools and public libraries still closed due to COVID-19, Little Free Libraries are more important than ever.
Little Free Libraries are more than just spots to pick up a book on a rainy day. They’re places where anyone in the community can have easy access to books, regardless of who they are or where they come from.
Grace noted that one of the biggest obstacles she faces with her Little Library is getting people to understand that it’s completely free.
“I know that there’s a lot of families, especially now during this COVID crisis, that maybe don’t have spare money to go and buy books. But this is free, and you don’t have to pay for it. You can take as many books as you want or leave as many as you want,” she said.
You can find a Little Free Library near you using this handy map. The map only covers libraries that are chartered with the Little Free Library organization. There are countless more “unofficial” libraries out there waiting to be discovered.
If you don’t have a Little Free Library in your neighborhood, all the more reason to create one. Anyone can build a library, so check online to see how to get started.