Rotary International is a service organization with many chapters all over the world. Its members are held to a high standard of “service above self” and are expected to attend meetings regularly.
However, life gets in the way of nearly everyone, and when members find themselves unable to get to a local meeting, they also have an option to make up the meeting online. Members are required to spend at least a half-hour on the site, during which they can view interesting videos or read articles posted by other members.
It was during one of these makeup sessions that I came across a really cool idea called “Little Free Libraries.”
As one participant put it when describing what Little Free Libraries are, “You take a sturdy, waterproof small structure —which you buy, build or repurpose — fill it with books, set it up outside, add a sign (”take a book, leave a book” is popular) and watch what happens.”
Todd Bol and Rick Brooks are the founders of this non-profit enterprise. In 2009, while exploring the benefits of green practices in small businesses, they met and realized that they shared a commitment to service and the quality of community life around the world.
Community life is what participants refer to most when talking about their own Little Free Libraries. They know that promoting literacy is an important aspect of what they do, but the resounding message is that people are meeting people on the street, talking, smiling, and sharing information about what they’ve read. They’re also fostering, in this age of instant communication and instant gratification, the love of books that seemed at one time as if it might be lost. The heft of a book, the feel of turning pages, the smell of paper, even that bit of attic aroma not available on a Kindle or Nook are once again providing at least some of the joy in people’s reading experiences.
Little Free Libraries are very small structures, but when you look at the variety of designs on the do-it-yourself pages of the web site, it’s a testament to imagination. These are little buildings, usually not much more than an overgrown birdhouse in size, but with a lot of soul.
They’re the kind of thing you walk up to and just automatically feel like smiling.
Of course, there are always people with two left thumbs who aren’t inclined to build their own, and for those people, or communities, ready-made library boxes are available fairly inexpensively ($250) on their web site: www.littlefreelibrary.org.
And, since this movement is all about community, there is a Facebook community at: www.facebook.com/LittleFreeLibrary where folks show off photos of their libraries, little whimsical buildings that seem to be springing up in all manner of large and small towns from Michigan to Idaho.
They’ve sprung up in private yards, dog parks, truck stops, and in front of businesses. They encourage conversation, learning, and a sense of belonging – neighborliness, if you will.
If there are local laws or building codes that prevent them, we should probably revise those, join the Little Free Library movement, and put some fun back into a walk around our neighborhoods.
Anne Springer is the public relations director of SeniorCare Inc., Cape Ann’s local area agency on aging. To reach SeniorCare, call 978-281-1750.