By Harriet “Pepi” Noble, a member of the Rotary Club of Mechanicville, New York, USA
I grew up living on a country road in a small town in upstate New York. There were no other children nearby so my friends all lived in books. I helped Mary find the key to the garden, rode Black Beauty, sailed on the Hispaniola and solved mysteries with Nancy and so many more. I was never lonely, never bored.
When I was about eight, I thought I would share my friends with the other people who lived on our road. So I found a small table and piled some of my books on it and sat down at the end of the driveway hoping someone would stop. Well they never did and eventually I discovered the public library and made many more friends. But I’ve never forgotten wanting to share my books with others.
When I first saw these little library boxes on the news it reminded me of the importance of sharing our favorite stories and books with our friends and neighbors. And then I opened the March edition of The Rotarian magazine and discovered that Little Free Libraries had its start when a Rotarian in Wisconsin built the first one back in 2009 to honor the memory of his mother who was a teacher.
It’s exhilarating to see a great idea takes off and even more so when it’s made so easy that any one of us can do it. Todd Bol, the founder and builder of the first boxes was quick to call me and agree to let me tell the story of Take One, Leave One.
Todd built the first one, a duplicate of a one-room schoolhouse, filled it with books, put it outside his home with a sign that said “Free Books” and with that the idea of building a grassroots network of these tiny libraries was born. Soon joined by Richard Brooks, whose several decade-long background in social marketing and international perspective meshed well with Bol’s background, the two had a “shared commitment to service and to the quality of community life around the world.”
As I peruse the Little Free Libraries website, it doesn’t seem that they have missed a thing to help people and groups alike build these libraries. Advice and ideas on how to get started, costs, creative ideas for the libraries, where and what books to select, placement, regulatory issues, marketing and public relations guidance; it’s all there. But I am most impressed with the stewardship.
Building and maintaining these little free libraries is an awesome task, one filled with love but also filled with responsibility. Everything you need to know and do to support and sustain one of these little treasures is all right on the website. Registering your library, getting it on the global map, protecting it, and sharing it with friends and neighbors will make sure it succeeds.
I’m not eight anymore and it’s taken all these years, but my own Little Free Library will be up and running at my house soon. My focus: the friends I made as a child. My little table at the end of the driveway will be a little red wagon. Follow me as I make this a dream come true and watch some of my Rotary friends start their own Little Free Libraries.
Originally published on A Noble Purpose. Harriet Noble is a past governor of District 7190