Friday, August 3, 2012

Little free libraries

The Little Free Library is a great concept that promotes both literacy and community.  It also has a lesson and encouragement for church librarians. The LFL concept is simple - a weatherproof box of books situated on somebody's front yard, maintained by individuals who care.  

But they are much more than that: Eric Lacitis calls them "2,100 simple, little gestures of goodwill"  in a recent Seattle Times article.  He documents how freely sharing books touches lives of neighbours. "You'd be surprised how the little structures bring together a neighborhood; you know, getting to know the people a few doors away over an actual novel or cooking book that you hold in your hands. Print still rules." he writes.

It' all part of a global initiative started by two Wisconsin natives. The purpose is to nurture neighborhoods through literacy, but also bring communities together at these mico-sized gathering places.
“We have found that as soon as they put up their library all their neighbors came,” said Megan Hansen, a development specialist with the Little Library organization. "It's just word of mouth once people see one."

Up in Alaska,  Michaele Yard created a LFL for her community “I just hope it’ll get people to take a walk, walk by it, stop and look at books; pick up a book or a magazine, read something they wouldn’t have normally read. Times are hard, books are expensive,” she said. “It’s nice to think that someone doesn’t have to go out and spend 10 or 15 dollars on a book because a neighbor was nice enough to share with them.”
At the Little Free Library website, their mission statement includes: To promote literacy and the love of reading; To build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity, and wisdom across generations.

How does that compare with your church library's mission? It's probably something along the lines of "encouraging Christian growth", right? And you probably want the folks in your neighbourhood to grow as Christians (and becoming a Christian is the first step to Christian growth,) right? So maybe your church library could take some risks, the way the Little Free Libraries do.

For example:
  • Tell your community you're here, for them.
  • Take risks. The LFL folks say "If they do (steal) books, they might even read them!"
  • Share the good stuff "The unique, personal touch seems to matter, as does the understanding that real people are sharing their favorite books. Leaving notes or bookmarks, having one-of-a-kind artwork on the Library or constantly re-stocking it with different and interesting books can make all the difference.  These aren't just any old books! 
  • If it helps to remove the pressure  of being a ""Librarian", think of yourself as a "Steward" - that's the term for the person who looks after a Little Free Library.
In Menomonee Falls, WI, St. Francis Episcopal Church has set up the village's first Little Free Library. Carl Engelking writes in the Menomee Falls Patch:
St. Francis parishioner Andy Itsoff laid a stone path, installed a bench, and erected a small sign at their Little Free Library. It resides beneath the tallest pine on the property of the church. It’s now the entire neighborhood’s miniature rest-a-bit spot.
“I foresee someone coming through at 6:30 a.m. with a coffee in their hand, sitting under a beautiful tree, and reading a book or their paper,” said St. Francis parishioner Ron Johnson. “We want to bring everybody in to enjoy of what we have here in Menomonee Falls.”
Johnson said several people have already stopped out to exchange a book. Passers-by soon find themselves locked into a conversation about the book they’re reading, the weather, or anything else. The quaint bench and sign are enough to spark a conversation with intrigued walkers.
A well-stocked Little Free Library is a sure sign that a community can share, engage, and trust one another. “This is for the entire neighborhood. It’s a great idea and we hope it catches on further in Menomonee Falls,” Johnson said.

Poke around the LFL website for more great ideas and encouragement. 

Update Au 14, 2012 

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