There is an abundance of good will spreading across Winnipeg and the entire globe thanks to one man, Todd Bol of Wisconsin, who wanted to honour the memory of his school teacher mother, June Bol.
It started with one little library in Bol’s front yard made from old lumber and has evolved to over 6000 little free libraries in 36 countries.
“I feel like the spirit and energy of my mom is in each one of those little libraries all over the world,” says Bol.
Bol’s dream is to promote literacy and the love of reading at the grassroots level by building free book exchanges worldwide and to enhance a sense of community by sharing skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.
“Little Free Library Stewards are book lovers and this entire program has been designed with Friends of Libraries in mind,” Bol explains. LFL’ s as they are known, “offer creative and upbeat outreach tools to extend the reach of your public library to all parts of your community.”
“There hasn’t been a day yet where this doesn’t bring a smile to my face and affirm my faith in humanity,” says Charlene Roziere, Library Steward #1849 of Mandeville Street in St. James. In the year that her little library has been operational she estimates over 1800 books have been circulated to visitors. She has met “lots of great people” from grandparents to entire daycares to tourists from New Zealand who have visited her little red schoolhouse library.
According to the founders of the rapidly growing movement, “this isn’t just a matter of putting free books on a shelf, it is about real people sharing their books with the community.”
‘Build it and they will come’ has certainly proven true for the little libraries that are now part of Winnipeg’s fabric whose locations can be found with Global Positioning on Google Maps. ‘Give a book – take a book’ is the motto of the free service that is open 24/7 all year with no library card required and no overdue fines “You can’t steal a free book,” quips Bol.
To see where Little Free Libraries are located go to www.littlefreelibrary.org The site also has hundreds of photos of installations, many of which are works of art. Building plans are also on the site.
The Winnipeg Public Library is partnering with Storefront Manitoba and Culture Days in a design contest and exhibit for Little Free Libraries. The Call for Submission went on last Friday and there is a link to it from the main Winnipeg Public Library website on the Quick Links. Click here for submission details.
Some folks, like those on Mandeville Street have their little library on Facebook while the self-described “rather shy book nerds (#5611) on Dorchester Avenue have Gracie Sweetstory, a character in a soon to be published children’s book, as their Library Steward.
Making this adventure even more fun, LFL #2873 left a book with Gracie that introduces visitors to a great way to learn about what folks are reading and their impressions of books via an international “read and release” project called, Free As A Bird, whereby readers can find out where the book has been by logging on to www.bookcrossing.com
Two films, Because It’s Small and A Small Wooden Box: The Little Library Movement on YouTube, document how freely sharing books supports reading for children, literacy for adults and libraries around the world.
Videos of 30 little libraries can be found at http://pinterest.com/ltlfreelibrary/film-festival/
As storyteller Stuart McLean is fond of saying, ” We may not be big but we are small.” Most libraries are made of wood with plexiglass doors and it is their smallness that makes them so grand.
Writer Marion Dane Bauer is a prime example of the power of small. “I grew up in a small town with a very small library,” she says. “But the books in that library opened a large place in my heart. It is the place where stories live. Those stories have been informing my days, comforting my nights, extending my possibilities ever since. If that library had not been there, if the books had not been free, my world would be poor even today.”