This is not a column, but a story I covered that intrigues me. Joseph works with Ken Matocha with Habitat for Humanity. Ruth is in my quilting guild.
By Joan Hershberger
One after another, they have appeared around the nation – a small building-shaped box on a pole holding maybe two or three dozen books or more called Little Free Libraries. They remain open to anyone at any time of the day. Recently, one of the boxes appeared at 606 N. Jackson Ave. “Take a book, leave a book,” the sign reads.
Inside the little house, a selection of books waits for someone to stop, look and take a book. The borrower does not need a library card, and there are no fines or return date.
The books change regularly, according to Ruth Matocha, who saw an article about the Little Free Libraries earlier this year in a bulletin from the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons). She pointed it out to her husband, Kenneth Matocha, and asked him to build one. He built the Little Free Library. It looks like an oversized birdhouse with a plexiglass front. In May, he stationed the little library on a pole near the sidewalk.
Since then, Ruth has noticed a steady exchange of contents. She checks the Little Library frequently in hopes of finding new books.
“It has been interesting to see the response. You think ‘Are people even going to pay attention?’ but they do,” she said. “We have seen quite a bit of visitors actually. A lot of people have commented, even if they are not taking a book. They tell me they will bring some books. I don’t know if they have or not. If I see that there are not so many books there, I re-stock it. I switch it around and take out what I want to read.”
About the time the Little Free Library opened, Matocha’s sons and grandchildren came to visit, bringing their excess of children’s books to stock the free library.
“I know people have taken them,” Ruth said.
She said Kenneth said he finds it strange that people will come to the Little Free Library when they could go three blocks over to the library with hundreds of books.
“I think it is the novelty of it,” Ruth said.
The idea originated a couple of years ago in Madison, Wis., when Todd Bol and Rick Brooks co-founded the Little Free Library movement to encourage literacy and increase access to books. The first Little Library, built by Bol, commemorated his late mother, a teacher.
The Little Free Library on Jackson adheres to the movement’s ideals. The short shelf displays books which may be borrowed or swapped with no fines, check out or penalties.
The books are free, so taking a book is not stealing, but the honor system program does ask that the book either be returned or replaced with another book.
The cute little boxes with books have sprung up in about half the states in the country, according to a website where they may be registered. Little Libraries located outside are weather proofed to ensure the books stay dry. Little Libraries have also been located inside childcare centers, kids’ rooms, pediatricians’ offices and pre-schools.
Anyone can build and stock a Free Little Library. Registering a Little Library costs $25, and its location is then posted on a Google map of Little Libraries. The originators of the Little Libraries estimate that many more Little Libraries have been set up around the country than have been registered.