Have you noticed the small, freestanding wooden boxes in people’s front yards filled with books — including at least eight in Oak Park alone? They’re part of the Little Free Library system, and it has become a worldwide phenomenon.
The Little Free Library movement started in 2009 in Hudson, Wis., when a man named Todd Bol built a miniature one-room schoolhouse in honor of his mother, a retired teacher who loved reading. The small wooden box, perched on a post, was filled with books that were free for the taking.
Soon the idea grew, and people started building their own. As more little libraries were constructed, Bol and others organized the idea into a system to spread literacy across the world — for free. Their goal was to have 2,510 Little Free Libraries by 2014 — a goal that has been shattered. By January of 2015, the total number of registered Little Free Libraries in the world was conservatively estimated to be nearly 25,000. Thousands more are being built, on six continents, although most are in the U.S.
The group’s motto is “take a book, return a book.” It has a twofold mission:
- To promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide.
- To build a sense of community to share skills, creativity, and wisdom across generations.
Look around your neighborhood for a Little Free Library. The 200 block of South Harvey has three all on the same block. Its first was built by neighbors of Nadine Thompson, a retired librarian. The neighbors fashioned the Little Free Library in her front yard to look like her house. Just like any library, it holds books for all ages.
So stop by a Little Free Library near you. Pick up a book. Drop off one you’ve already read to return the favor.
You can learn more about Little Free Libraries at its website. To locate a Little Free Library in your area, use the map, although the group admits that the numbers have been so overwhelming, the map system needs redesigning.