It’s a birdhouse, it’s a mailbox, it’s a Little Free Library! You may have seen them popping up on front lawns like spring flowers. Colorful containers in various shapes and sizes decorated to their owner’s liking, sometimes designed to match their home. Little Free Libraries were created to share and spread the love of reading while building a sense of community.
In Providence’s Summit neighborhood, Anne Holland’s Little Free Library has become something of a landmark. “I get a ton of Sunday afternoon walkers in family or friend groups,” she begins. “Some people even show my library to their out-of-town visitors as one of the things you go see on a scenic view of the area.”
The idea is simple: Owners, called stewards, place a public bookcase on their front lawn full of books they’re willing to share. Neighbors peruse the selections and take the books that they want to read; they may also add to the collection so there are even more options for avid readers.
“Editing the inventory daily has proven so important that my neighbor takes over when I’m away. Seeing what sorts of books come and go is a cool way to learn more about what my neighbors want to read, and thus who they are,” says the community-minded Holland, founder of 189 Development, a mission-driven organization that focuses support on women’s issues, parks and flowers, livable cities, and the literary arts.
Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization based in Saint Paul, Minnesota that promotes book exchanges. Stewards register their sites so that seekers can find them on the official app available through Apple and Google Play. Globally, 150,000 libraries are listed.
“Our free library helps us meet new people and stay in touch with our neighbors,” claims Robin Dionne, co-founder of Ampersand Creative (the curators behind events like The Good Trade Makers Market and RI Veg Fest), about being a Little Free Libraries steward in the Auburn neighborhood of Cranston. “It is a conversation starter. Everyone wants to ask questions. People seem really excited to learn that they can take books – especially kids!”
At last count, there are 99 locations in the Providence area with new ones being added often. They’re stocked with something for everyone, from bestsellers to coloring books, even puzzles
and craft supplies.
Dionne adds, “It took a while for the library to catch on, but now we see repeat visitors. We live on a popular dog-walking route, so there is some foot traffic. Even the UPS and FedEx drivers get out and take a look.” Learn more at LittleFreeLibrary.org
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