Now that the days are dwindling and the nights are long, it’s a good time to reflect on those who light candles for the rest of us. We were in St. Petersburg, Florida, walking in its historic neighborhood when we first came upon the Little Free Library in someone’s front yard. It was actually a small, colorfully painted wooden box with glass doors, and it rested on a pedestal about four feet high. Inside were a selection of books with a sign saying, “Take a book. Leave a book ” We’d never seen such a thing before. Since then, I’ve come across these boxes elsewhere, even in my own neighborhood in Columbia, MD. There are over 75,000 Little Free Libraries across the globe.
Today, I read an obituary of Todd Bol, the founder of the nonprofit Little Free Libraries, who died in October at 62. The Little Free Libraries were his way of honoring his mother after her death. She was a book lover and a teacher.
He began this project in 2009. He repurposed an old, broken garage door to build the first Little Library, making it look like a miniature schoolhouse, painting it red and decorating it with a steeple and a toy bell. He added a glass door to protect the books , then filled it with books from his family’s collection. He set the library outside his home in Hudson, Wis., on top of a wooden pole with a sign reading “Free Books.”
People liked it and the idea spread. Bol and his partner Rick Brooks created the non-profit Little Free Library in 2012. To the Washington Post in 2013, Boll said, “I put up my library and noticed my neighbors talking to it like it was a little puppy. And I realized there was some kind of magic about it.” The network comprises more than 75,000 Little Free Library stewards around the world dedicated to literacy and community.
The libraries are bought by stewards — Mr. Bol’s term for the guardians and curators of his libraries— who install them and must register the box with the company to be valid. You can build a box yourself or buy one from the Little Free Library and elsewhere. Whichever you do, register it with the Little Free Library by purchasing a charter sign for each one. That way, they can welcome you to the Little Free Library Sharing Network, and you can legally use the name Little Free Library. There is a one-time cost of about $40 to purchase a charter sign. You are welcome to list the name of any builders, sponsors or related organizations on your Library.
Little Free Library has no rules about what your Library may or may not look like. However, your city government or home owner’s association may have rules. Be sure you have permission before installing your Library. To protect the Little Free Library name and quality of the Libraries themselves, the name Little Free Library and its common variations are trademarked. Only Libraries with official charter signs and numbers can be photographed and displayed as part of the Little Free Library network. This is the only way they can track, monitor, support, fund and celebrate your efforts!
After Todd Bol’s death, the organization requested that “stewards” put silver ribbons around the libraries in his honor. For more information, go to www.littlefreelibrary.org.
Photo Content used with permission of Little Free Library, LTD.