Some ideas are such fun I shake my head in amazement. The Little Free Library is one of them. (Thanks, Utne Reader, for pointing them out.)
The scheme is simple and generous. Plant a small box, kind of like a bird house for books, atop a post. Fill it with about 20 books. Tell friends and neighbours. Stop by again and see what others have left in place of the first 20 books. Drop off the latest good book you’ve read. Pick up one you haven’t. That's a free library, for anyone, any time, anywhere. Literacy promotion in a box.
Todd Bol and Rick Brooks were inspired by Andrew Carnegie, who believed so passionately in the power of books he built 2,510 libraries around the English-speaking world. Carnegie paid for the buildings but expected communities to fill them with books, staff them, and fund the operations and maintenance.
Todd and Rick want to see free libraries planted all over the world, tended by neighbours. I can envision a circuit of them in my downtown neighbourhood. The one by GioBean, my favourite coffeeshop, will have short story collections so people who drop by without a book or a conversation companion can find something to read with their coffee. In nearby Stuart Park people will share their books on Kelowna and the Okanagan, for the pleasure of all our visiting travelers. Closer to the bridge that crosses Lake Okanagan, the Little Free Library will bulge with paperbacks for people who need something to tuck into a backpack, comfort in a printed package, while they’re trying to get back on their feet. The one outside the Unitarian Fellowship will have books that stir vigorous discussion.
The Little Free Library offers everything you need to get started: designs available for purchase, examples of other little libraries, guidelines for building your own, ideas for setting up and operating a little library, and book suggestions for stocking one.
I hope this scheme catches on and promotes literacy and friendship everywhere. One day I expect to log onto the Little Free Library site and find pinpoints all over a map of the world, showing where these libraries are located. You can follow the Little Free Library on Facebook (where you’ll also see the more complicated original name: Neighborhood Library Builders Guild).
Oh, and if you do start a Little Free Library, expect the spirit of Bookus Binder to come alive through the books.
Update: The Columbus Dispatch published an article about the book boxes on October 13th.
[Find where it started on the map at uencounter.me]
Watch this video of a Folsom, California guy who was inspired by the Little Free Library.