“Our beagle, Molly, seems to resist the idea that she shouldn’t bark every time someone with a dog walks by,” says Pam Brewer, whose Fort Collins home is beside a walking and biking path. Her Little Free Library box, at 3296 Gunnison Drive, “is called the Barking Beagle, and it’s painted with dog paws on the front. Most of the neighborhood dogs stop, knowing they’ll probably get a biscuit—we always keep a jar full in the library.”
“Take a book, return a book” is the only rule for using Little Free Libraries (LFL), a nationwide effort to encourage reading started by the non-profit Little Free Library organization (https://littlefreelibrary.org). Search the map at https://littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap/, and you’ll find red push pins marking locations of the homegrown libraries in your area.
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Informality and easy access make the boxes a popular destination for neighbors—and that’s led to an unanticipated benefit, the strengthening of community ties.
“It’s been a nice way to get to know our neighbors—and their dogs!—as people tend to stop by on their walks to check it out,” says Brewer. “It’s fun to see the kids out on their bikes, stopping to see what’s new.” And the jar of dog biscuits has brought reciprocal generosity: “We’ve come home many times to find boxes of dog biscuits on our porch, with a note saying ‘This is from our dog,’ ” she says happily.
A one-time payment of $39 at registration pays for an official sign and the right to call your box a Little Free Library®, connects you to other registered stewards, and, most important, gets your Little Free Library listed on the map so book lovers can find your offerings.
You can buy a box from the organization, but many folks prefer to make their own. Lacey Shupe, steward of “the first and hopefully not the last” LFL in Wellington, at Third Street and Kennedy Avenue, says her box is named the Wellington Community Little Free Library, “because of the community effort to get it up and running and keep it stocked.” All materials were donated, including “an old barn window” that became the see-through door, and all labor was done by volunteers. The finished box “was filled immediately with donations from the community!”
Personalizing the box is part of the fun. Visit the LFL of Katie Joskowiak—“Our family loves to read!”—at 2617 Ridgecrest Road, Fort Collins, and you’ll find it painted with geese in flight. Their home is between Terry Lake and Long Pond Reservoir, and “some of our geese neighbors fly right over our place nightly,” she says.
Reed Johnson’s Little Free Library is in the lobby of the Edward Jones office at 2901 South Lemay Street, Suite 28, Fort Collins, “right next to Starbucks.” Johnson set it up “in honor of my grandfather, who wrote a novel when he was 80.”
Only very, very rarely does a Little Free Library run into problems, say those who tend them. “Once, someone kept stuffing dozens of Harlequin Romance paperbacks in the library,” says one steward. “It made us laugh.”