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From Salvador Brazil to Grand Marais, Little Libraries have made a big impact

May 15, 2019 09:28AM ● By Editor
Little Free Library, an idea that was born 10 years ago this month, has grown into a book-sharing revolution with more than 80,000 locations. Sharalee Armitage Howard made one last year from a dead tree in front of her Idaho home. (Courtesy of Sharalee Armitage Howard)

By Kris Coronado from The Washington Post - May 15, 2019

Want a book? Head to a rocket ship in Boulder, Colorado, a fairy-tale cottage near Ghent, Belgium, or a tree in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

These are just three of the more than 80,000 Little Free Libraries in more than 90 countries.

Unlike traditional libraries, these typically small structures aren’t buildings where people check out books from a librarian.

“A Little Free Library is a box full of books that, when you find one, you can take a book home with you,” explains Margret Aldrich, Little Free Library spokeswoman. “Or if you have a book to share, you can leave it for someone else to read.”

Little Free Libraries are everywhere: outside homes, inside recreational centers, beside coffee shops.

The first was set on a post in front of Todd Bol’s home in Hudson, Wisconsin, 10 years ago. The miniature schoolhouse Bol built held free books anyone could enjoy.

It became a local hit.

“I put up my library and noticed my neighbors talking to it like it was a little puppy,” Bol, who died of cancer last year, told The Washington Post in 2013. “And I realized there was some kind of magic about it.”

A themed Little Free Library was created for Wichita State University’s Food Truck Plaza in Wichita, Kansas. Installed in July 2017, it features working headlights. Photo: Ellen Abbey

A year after installing his library, Bol and Rick Brooks, a friend and business partner, launched Little Free Library, registering it as a nonprofit organization in 2012. Their goal was to make books more widely available while strengthening bonds within communities.

They sparked a book-sharing revolution.

Little Free Libraries began popping up all over the place — from Salvador, Brazil, to Grand Marais, Minnesota — with the concept’s popularity spreading through word of mouth and social media.

Today, those who want to build one can download free instructions from the Little Free Library website ( Some, however, have let their imaginations run wild.

Ariana Tenorio worked with her dad, Eluterio Tenorio Jr., in 2018 to make a Little Free Library featuring the Girl Scouts logo. Ariana is a member of Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas Troop 300 in San Antonio. The troop aims to create 300 Little Free Libraries to distribute throughout the city. (Family photo)

Last December, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, resident Sharalee Armitage Howard became an online sensation after posting photos on Facebook of a library she had created out of a dead 110-year-old tree.

Debbie Teague of Bossier City, Louisiana, went a different route. The 55-year-old turned an old Coca-Cola ice chest into one. Most love it, she says, but a couple of people claimed she had ruined an antique. Her reply? “What’s better? For it to be stuck on a shelf at an antique store not doing anything? Or holding books in my yard for children and adults to come actually read?”

For other library owners, the motivation is simply spreading the joy of reading.

“There weren’t many public places like libraries where I live,” says 10-year-old Umayr Ansari, who put a Little Free Library outside his home in Doha, Qatar, in 2013. “I had a lot of extra books, and I wanted to share them so people who didn’t have their own books could have a chance to read.”

Similarly, the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas’s Troop 300 have a goal of distributing 300 libraries this year throughout San Antonio in an effort to provide books to kids who may not be able to easily reach a library. The troop has built 285 so far.

The experience had a lasting impact on 11-year-old Scout Ava Jellick.

“I liked building the libraries and getting the feeling of, ‘Wow, I helped make that,’ ” she says. “That gave me pride and confidence.”

Even better?

She got a copy of “The Hunger Games.”

To read the original article and see related reporting, follow this link to The Washington Post website.

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