A free lunch? No such thing, they say. But free books? Yep, that’s real. The new source of free books may surprise you, however. The Little Free Library program is a grassroots system of small neighborhood ‘give-and-take’ book borrowing boxes that are sprouting up all over the world – including St. Augustine. There are a couple in Lincolnville, North St. Augustine and Davis Shores. Maybe even one near you.
The Little Free Library program was the brainchild of Tod Bol of Wisconsin in 2009. Since being established as a nonprofit in May 2012, about 36,000 little libraries have been registered. According to their website, Bol created the first one as a tribute to his literature-loving mom. Once he filled a box with books and posted it in his front yard, it became an instant curiosity. A neighborhood focal point. The same thing is now happening here.
Lincolnville resident Judith Seraphin put up a Little Free Library last spring near her home on South Street – she got the idea from walking by another one on Dehaven Street. As Lincolnville’s Neighborhood Association President, Judith says she’s always looking for ways to connect with neighbors.
“There are so many smart, involved people living here. So many readers. It’s been a great fit. It brings neighbors together. Everyone loves it,” she says.
The library boxes can be purchased as a kit to assemble, but Judith opted for the ready-made version. The $250 price tag was well worth it, she says. She then had a handyman put up the post and secure it into the ground. Dimensions for most of the Little Free Libraries are 20” wide by 15” deep by 18” high.
Because it’s a relatively new concept, some are still unsure how it works. One day a woman was peeking into the box when Judith walked up. “She asked if it was okay if she took a book. I told her, of course! That’s what it’s for. Take a book; give a book, that’s what it’s about.”
The same way a good neighbor wouldn’t show up at a potluck supper empty-handed, it’s just the neighborly thing to do to contribute quality books for others to enjoy. But it’s not necessary to return the exact book you take.
Judith checks the box regularly, weeding out the worn and torn and those that haven’t captured anyone’s interest in a while. She refreshes the inventory with books she finds at yard sales and thrift shops, too. Judith also makes sure there are books that appeal to teens, hoping students will use the library.
A man recently told her how pleased he was to find ‘Moby Dick’ in her library. It inspired him to reread the classic. “I think having a good variety exposes someone to a book they may not have taken the trouble to find in a public library or a book store. They’ll take it from here because it’s so easy.”
“It’s just been an incredibly positive experience,” she adds.
The organization has some guidelines to insure the integrity of the trademarked name. When putting up a Little Free Library, it’s necessary to register for an official charter sign and number so the location can be listed on the website. There is a nominal one-time registration fee, too.
For more information visit www.littlefreelibrary.org