|Little Free Libraries bring Janesville neighbors together|
|Written by Carol Paur for the Messenger|
|Tuesday, 20 March 2012 15:51|
JANESVILLE — Libraries have a reputation to maintain: silence, shelves of books and pert librarians, with glasses fixed on the edges of their noses.
But a new library of sorts is moving into neighborhoods, front yards, parks or even the local market. The Little Free Library is the new kid on the block, and it’s taking books off the traditional shelves and moving them into the great outdoors.
(Read this story and more for the March 11, 2012 Janesville Messenger HERE.)
The idea of a Little Free Library is to “take a book, leave a book,” said Richard Brooks of Madison. Brooks co-founded the LFL movement with Todd Bols of Hudson in 2009.
“Todd built (a Little Free Library) in his front yard as a memorial to his mother who was a school teacher,” Brooks said. “There were a lot of motivations that came together.”
For Patrice Groessel of Janesville, sharing with neighbors was the motivation for her and her husband to establish a LFL in the front yard of their home on Briar Crest Drive.
“I’ve met new neighbors I didn’t know I had,” Groessel said. “They talk about themselves. It’s kind of a way of opening up the neighborhood.”
She added, “We love books. In this complicated world, we think technology is good, but we thought it’d be a simple thing to share (with) the community.”
For Jackie Gennett, owner of Bushel & Peck’s Local Market in Beloit, having a Little Free Library inside the business is a way to build up the community.
“We think any investment in our community members is a smart thing to do,” Gennett said. “We really like to provide things that are not just things to buy, but to help engage the community and invoke thoughts and thinking.”
For Gennett, the Little Free Library also serves as a reminder for people to read.
“The idea is it’s a book exchange program in a public space,” she said. “It’s making books accessible that might not be accessible.”
Shoppers will find the library situated inside Bushel & Peck’s, 328 State St. Most of the 20 to 25 books in the library are about food, gardening and environmental concerns, though any genre is acceptable.
“It’s a continuous reminder of reading,” Gennett said. “It’s not just about having the books, but the visibility of having books everywhere. It’s encouraging for reading all the time.”
Barbara Peterson, executive director of the Literacy Council in Beloit, said the Little Free Library is a brilliant idea.
“I think it would be cool, especially for children,” Peterson said. “It would bring them out from the TV. Their curiosity would be stirred. They would accidentally stumble onto books.”
Groessel said it took her husband about three weeks to construct their library, which is dedicated to his parents.
Participants also can purchase a fully built library starting at $250 and going up to $600 or more, Brooks said. It all depends on how complicated or ornate they want their library. Three sets of building plans and kits are offered online at
Little Free Library owners like the Groessels supply the first batch of books, then those who use the library exchange books or return the one they borrowed.
Groessel, who has about 25 books in her library, sees that it “refreshes itself” without too much involvement on her part.
“If they’ve (books) been there a month or month and a half, I take them to Goodwill, but that really hasn’t been a problem,” she said. “People will return or bring in books, so it’s maintaining itself.”
The 8-month-old Little Free Library at Bushel & Peck’s piques the curiosity of customers, Gennett said.
“Sometimes they take a book, sometimes they come back with a book, but everybody likes it,” she said.
The Little Free Library founders are hoping to beat 20th century industrial tycoon Andrew Carnegie’s total of 2,500 libraries built or founded through his donations. Right now they have hundreds of libraries in rural and urban settings throughout the United States, with about 500 more libraries in the works. The Little Free Library concept also has crossed the Atlantic to parts of Africa.
“It’s not so much that we’re in the business of selling libraries. What we’d like to stress is that we’re helping (people) give library books to their neighbors,” Brooks said. “People gather around these (libraries). It’s the social interaction that results from them.”
|Last Updated on Thursday, 22 March 2012 13:10|