I walk every day, sometimes twice a day and sometimes on my walks I find myself on North Street. I was walking on Hoard several weeks ago, and as I crossed North St. I saw a little structure, sort of like an oversized bird house. It held books, and on the outside it said, “Take a book, leave a book.” Fascinating. I was stopped in my tracks by the curious little house of books. I assumed at the time, that the nearby homeowner had fashioned the structure and was perhaps a retired librarian.
I spotted my second little library at Ground Zero Coffee House on Williamson St. OK, this is more than I thought. I asked about the little library and the staff member told me that area businesses were behind the little libraries, but that was really all she knew about it.
It turns out that the libraries are the brainchild of Rick Brooks of Madison and Todd Bol of Hudson, and they are not just in Madison.
When they first hatched the idea for the Little Library — along with the goal to create more of them around the world than Andrew Carnegie did public libraries — Brooks and Bol thought of giving the box a witty name like “Habitat for the Humanities.” Or “House of Stories.” But Little Libraries stuck.
The project was inspired in part by tales of Lutie Stearns (1866-1943), who traveled the back roads of Wisconsin to lend books in the early 20th century. With Little Libraries, the goal is not only to boost literacy and reading, but to build community.
Those who want to sponsor a Little Library can make their own, or buy one made and ready for decorating on the Little Library website, littlefreelibrary.org, or at Absolutely Art. Each structure receives an official seal and number, and is overseen by a “steward,” a volunteer who keeps the library tidy and presentable.
The boxes are generally made from recycled materials with a Plexiglas door and a weather-worthy design. Eventually, Brooks hopes the location of each Little Library can be identified online via GPS, and also have its own Facebook page.
A Little Library costs upward of $350 for all of the technical support and installation — and part of the fee goes to support library projects in developing countries. It’s all part of a “pay-it-forward” idea, according to the State Journal.