From a distance, you’ve probably seen them, those large birdhouse-like structures perched atop a pole, lining some of the streets in Holyoke. Upon closer examination, you see a door, and when you open the door to look inside, you find books; big books, small books, hardcovers, paperbacks, children’s books, and books for adults. You’ll even find some bestsellers inside and out-of-print rarities if you search long enough.
Each of these little book boxes is called a “Little Free Library” and part of the mission of a non-profit organization of the same name. Since its founding in 2009, Little Free Library has grown exponentially from one Little Free Library in Hudson, Wisconsin, expanding throughout all 50 United States and 91 other countries. Now, Little Free Libraries are on every continent on the planet except Antarctica. There are over 75,000 little libraries in the United States alone; that’s 3 Little Libraries for every public library.
Their concept is simple: take a book, share a book. And in the meantime, build community and literacy.
Holyoke has four of these Little Free Libraries, all of which are registered with the organization. Two are in the Highlands on Williams and Lincoln Streets, one on Lacus Drive, and the fourth is on Homestead Avenue. You can find them on the organization’s map here: https://littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap/.
The first Little Free Library was built by the late Todd Bol, in memory of his mother, a book lover and school teacher. He constructed it to look like a schoolhouse and mounted it on a pole in his front yard. That original design has remained throughout the organization’s growth.
A lot of love and work went into creating and installing these Little Libraries in Holyoke, all managed by library stewards who take financial responsibility for building them and keeping them clean, presentable, and performing repairs as needed.
In addition, through their Impact Library Program, which is sustained via donations, Little Free Library also provides no-cost Little Free Library book exchanges to communities where books are scarce. They’ve granted more than 1,500 libraries through this program.
According to their website, Little Free Library’s mission and vision are:
“...to be a catalyst for building community, inspiring readers, and expanding book access for all through a global network of volunteer-led Little Free Libraries.
Our vision is a Little Free Library in every community and a book for every reader. We believe all people are empowered when the opportunity to discover a personally relevant book to read is not limited by time, space, or privilege.”
More than 120 million books have been shared in Little Free Libraries worldwide due to their mission and vision. Why even the Library of Congress has a Little Free Library book-sharing box!
So, the next time you see a Little Free Library, stop, drop a book in, and take one to read. You’re contributing to literacy. And who knows? Maybe that book you drop into that Little Free Library will be the one that opens up a whole new world of reading for another person.
If you’d like to become a Little Free Library steward for your neighborhood or community, or simply take advantage of this free book exchange, visit the Little Free Library website here: www.littlefreelibrary.org.