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Caring and Sharing Books for Free in your Neighborhood

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Sadie Sondgerath smiles at the ribbon cutting ceremony near her newly erected Little Free Library. This is in front of neighborhood maintained ‘pocket park’–much enjoyed by the children on Albemarle Road.

By Dasha Morgan- Perhaps some of you have noticed an unusual little birdhouse-like box in your neighborhood, near someone’s house, garden, or neighborhood park. Often it could have a sign with the registered trademark: Take a book, Return a book Little Free Library. And the box is filled with a constantly changing assortment of books for all ages. In this area they are scattered all about—in the Manor Grounds, on Macon Avenue, on Merrimon Avenue, in Shiloh, West Asheville, Arden and Hendersonville. They are usually beautifully crafted, sometimes unique, and sometimes with a particular theme. If you haven’t noticed one before, just keep your eyes open and you will find one, like a four-leaf clover.

The library needs to be waterproof, insect proof, accessible to the public, and allowed by the neighborhood association. It is a phenomenon that has caught on in the last few years and operates on the honor system. Little Free Libraries have sprung up all over the world—outside cafes, in parks, beside full-sized libraries and bookstores, and even in people’s front yards. They are popular with all ages. By June 2016, the number of mini libraries registered with the Little Free Library organization had grown to 40,000 in the USA in all 50 states and over 70 countries in the world. Plus there are many that are NOT registered with this organization but serve the same purpose.

On Albemarle Road at the corner of Baird Street, Sadie Sondgerath had a carpenter, James Marr, build her a Little Free Library near the park. He used recycled materials and installed a see-through door of plexiglass. She monitors activity there and enjoys being the steward of it. She makes certain that the library stays filled with interesting books for all ages, DVDs, stays tidy, and is not overrun with one particular sort of book. She often puts a bookmark or signed card in a book to be discovered. She registered the library with the Little Free Library Association, making her the official steward of a lively lending library for her neighborhood. In April, 2015, a neighborhood ribbon cutting took place to celebrate the new addition to the neighborhood.

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The Little Free Library movement began in Wisconsin in 2009, and gained momentum quickly. In the beginning—2009–Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, built a model of a one-room schoolhouse. It was a tribute to his mother; she was a teacher who loved to read. He filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard. His neighbors and friends loved it. He built several more and gave them away. Each one had a sign that said FREE BOOKS. The co-founders were Todd H. Bol and Rick Brooks were co-founders, and Little Free Library was established as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in May 2012.

On May 21, 2016, a festival was held in Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis. Almost 8,000 attended where they celebrated the joys of sharing books and reading. A myriad of activities took place—puppet shows, canine costume contest, and parades— but in addition information on how to build a little library in your neighborhood was distributed. Earlier in the year book lovers gathered in Austin Texas, to learn of the donation of 1000 Little Free Libraries for the Lone Star State by Robert J. Hoffman, a real estate developer. Mr. Hoffman said, “I have seen Little Free Libraries bring people together and spark interest in books, which is the first step to the essential skill of reading.” Mr. Hoffman wanted to inspire others with his Texas-size gift. As Rebekah Manley, Director of the Texas Center for the Book, said, “These Little Free Libraries create big bridges into public libraries.”

So perhaps you may want to join this movement? Many say with the presence of this library on their corner, they have met more neighbors and passers-by than they have in years. As Kieta Osteen-Cochran of Asheville said: ”I love the Little Libraries! What a gift to each neighborhood! My mom called me her little bookworm. I so love to read and be carried away to other cultures, times and ideas. Many of the books I find have nudged me out of my favorite genres toward new and interesting ones, like my last find, “The Secret Life of Lobsters.” The surprises you find or give for others to enjoy are part of the fun. Thank you for the Little Libraries!”

Another person mentioned this is a library that finds you. You don’t have to drive anywhere to pick up an interesting book. This particularly appeals to children. The Free Little Library helps to build community. You can purchase all the do-it-yourself equipment you need for building a Little Free Library online, or of course you can just create one from scratch with your own material. Throughout the world some AMAZINGLY clever and unique libraries have been built. Some reflect a classic columned building; others, a British telephone booth or nursery rhyme. The creativity is phenomenal Just go to www.Little FreeLibrary.org. for more information. And look around your neighborhood as you walk or drive. You may easily discover one in your neighborhood.

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