Author Margret Aldrich says the libraries promote community interaction.
The Little Free Library Book is a colorful book that’s nearly as charming as the tiny libraries themselves.
Minnesota-based author Margret Aldrich digs into the history of the “Take a Book/Leave a Book” phenomenon, which was begun by two Wisconsin men, and profiles dozens of Little Free Library stewards who have made a difference in their communities by promoting literacy, creativity and old-school concepts such as trading goods and building face-to-face relationships.
The first of more than 25,000 Little Free Libraries opened in May 2010 in Hudson, Wis. (about 250 miles northwest of Madison), when Todd Bol built a model one-room schoolhouse in his mother’s name, mounted it on a pole in his front yard and put some books in it. Little Free Libraries quickly took root in Madison, thanks to the involvement of Rick Brooks, outreach program manager in the University of Wisconsin’s continuing studies department, and they eventually spread around the world.
Wisconsin makes multiple appearances in The Little Free Library Book. “Benjamin’s Books” is a Little Free Library established in Prescott by the parents of 21-year-old Benjamin Stasse, who died by suicide in October 2010, and Madison’s Doug Senalik built a temporary library out of ice during 2014’s polar vortex.
Aldrich also writes about inmates at the Prairie du Chien Correctional Institute, who build Little Free Libraries using donated or recycled materials and then give them to communities. She also introduces us to Amy Tingle and Maya Stein, art and creative writing teachers from New Jersey who rode a tandem bicycle from Boulder, Colo., to Beloit, building Little Free Libraries and writing impromptu poems along the way.
A lengthy appendix section provides helpful links on Little Free Libraries, detailed construction plans, tips for builders, installation instructions and a call for more stories from readers about stewards in their neighborhoods.
Of course, the majority of the stories here likely represent the most idealistic of Little Free Library life. I recently discovered one in my neighborhood, but it has not led to spontaneous discussions about gardening with other patrons or exchanges of notes with the library’s steward — as have libraries in other locations.
That said, the Little Free Library in my Sun Prairie neighborhood is the only one in which I’ve found books that pique my interest. And the first book I left was gone five days later.
The Little Free Library Book
By Margret Aldrich, Coffee House Press