I love sharing books with people, whether it is friends, co-workers, or e-mail pals. Some people consider my house to be a library. One of my friends bought me a stamp that allows me to emboss my name in all my books. It even implies that I have my own personal library. I've even participated in Paperback Swap from time to time. At work, I started a program where people could exchange books every so often. This was inspired by the times I'd go into Starbucks or a train station and see bookshelves encouraging people to take and leave books. Now that our office is in a new location with a bigger breakroom, I asked the facilities manager about adding in a bookshelf so that we could take and leave books whenever we wanted, instead of having days designated for this activity.
I've seen pictures of Little Free Libraries, but haven't encountered one in person. I'm sure that my bookshelves would be begging for mercy if I ever did happen upon one! Therefore, I'm jealous of our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker, who was invited to be the guest of honor at a Little Free Library dedication!
From the Library of....
One of the things I love about living not too far from Indianapolis, Indiana, is discovering the cozy suburbs surrounding the capital city. From artsy to industrial, great places and spaces abound. One of my favorite little burbs is Zionsville. Fine cuisine, art galleries and quaint shops line the downtown streets. It’s one of my favorite halfway points to meet my friend, Christy, for dinner. One night after chowing down with our hubbies, we strolled along the sidewalks admiring the rows bungalows. Perched in the front yard of one was something I’d never seen before. At first, I thought it was a birdhouse, yet as we moved closer, I realized this small wooden structure had a window paned door with a little sign above it. I had just been introduced to my first Little Free Library.
This movement to provide a place for neighbors to swap books was the brainchild of Todd Bol and Rick Brooks. Bol was looking for a way to honor the legacy of his mother; a retired teacher who was passionate about reading. Brooks was investigating ways to make a social impact through enterprise. Together, they set out to create a non-profit organization setting a lofty goal, inspired by Andrew Carnegie’s financial backing of 2,509 libraries across the country at the turn of the century, to match that number in Little Free Libraries being created around the world. They surpassed it. Today there are over 15,000 Little Free Libraries worldwide with thousands in the process of completion.
I had no idea how this little book swap box came to be when I snapped a photo of the one I was so taken with and shared it on Facebook. After posting the photo, I received a message from a reader I’ve had the pleasure to get to know via social media. Jane Cook, who lives in Westfield, Indiana, broke the exciting news to me that she was in the process of having a Little Free Library built in her neighborhood and asked if I’d be willing to donate a book. I excitedly packed up a box full, eager to help. I asked her to let me know when it would be finished, that I would love to see it. Jane so graciously invited me to be the guest of honor at the dedication. Believe you me, I was the one honored to see how a woman rallied her community to install this treasure trove of literacy.
Jane and I spent time together in her home before the ribbon cutting ceremony. Being the curious girl I am, I asked her about how her love of books developed. She shared with me she grew up on a farm, an only child, and books became her friends. She traveled to many lands, met many interesting people, and experienced things beyond compare while delving into the pages of novels. That passion for reading followed her into adulthood yet came to a halt after the death of Jane’s husband. For hours, she’d tenderly read to him while he was ill in the hospital. Once he passed away, books were too painful to open.
Through the connectedness of the internet, Jane shared with me she noticed people discussing books they enjoyed. She began reaching out to authors whose work spoke to her. Slowly, she began turning pages again. Another step in healing from her loss was dreaming of a place, a Little Free Library, where children and adults could share books with one-another.
And it has come to pass. And it’s beautiful.
The big picture is what a team of people can accomplish when they share a mission, a passion, a drive to make something better for others. The power of one is strong. The power of many is a force to be reckoned with. No goal or ambition is too big when you dream dreams. Not to get all science fiction geek on you, but as Yoda says, “Do or do not, there is no try.” And that’s exactly what this little band of book lovers did. They made the Little Free Library so. Again, pardon the Captain Picard sidebar.
Jane, this column is dedicated to you and all those making a difference in literacy each and every day across the globe. You saw a need in your community, you acted upon it with a team of volunteers and friends, and you’ve left a lasting imprint. You are a treasure. I’m proud to call you friend. Thank you for allowing books to pick you up and sweep you away once again. They never left you. The pages held fast waiting until you were ready to turn them again.
Jen Tucker is the author of the funny and true stories, The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out and The Day I Lost My Shaker of Salt. In September 2012, she had her children's book, Little Pumpkin published as an e-book. She also blogs monthly for Survival for Blondes. She currently lives in Indiana with her husband, three kids and two dogs. You can find her at Twitter, Facebook, her blog and on her website. And in case you missed them. check out her previous Chick Lit Cheerleader posts here.