The first Little Free Library you see can be hard to ignore. They’re too big to be a birdhouse and so close to the street they seem meant for passers-by — a curious combination that invites a closer look.That look will lead to the discovery of books — free ones. A Little Free Library is exactly what it sounds like: a small enclosed place for the public to share books. It’s a do-it-yourself system that allows users, typically neighbors who walk or drive by, a place to leave old books and pick up ones that are new to them.
Little Free Libraries are popping up in neighborhoods throughout the region. Two years ago, Julene Ewert put one up in front of her Moscow home — the first in the area, to her knowledge — after noticing them during a trip to Portland. Her dad built the library and after it was up, she registered it at www.littlefreelibrary.org. The paid registration is not required, but helpful for locating libraries in an area.
Even though it’s 2 years-old, the library hasn’t seen a drop in use.
“Typically in wintertime it slows down, people aren’t outside as much,” Ewert says. “Or sometimes it gets a little empty.”
When that happens, she’ll sometimes go through her bookshelf and pull out anything she’s ready to part with. But just as often the library will be crammed completely full.
“It’s a good community thing,” Ewert says. “It’s a great way to meet neighbors.”
Several Little Free Libraries have sprung up around Moscow and Ewert has heard of one or two in Pullman as well. The movement has just begun in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley. Bob Blakey put one up at his home in January; it’s the first one he knows of in the valley.
Blakey’s Little Free Library was a Christmas gift from his adult daughter who lives in Eugene, Ore. Since childhood she’s received a new tool as a gift every Christmas; this year she used those tools to build a library. After the gift was opened, the whole family worked together to roof the enclosure, build a base and get it in the ground.
“I’ve gotten nothing but positive comments,” Blakey says of the 2-month-old neighborhood fixture.
He’s watched people park and get out to look for a book and sees kids and families go through it. He even had someone tell him she found a book inside that she’d been looking for and couldn’t find anywhere else. He expects use to only increase as the weather gets warmer.
Blakey built a second library that was auctioned at a fundraiser last weekend.
“I would love to see more around town,” he says. “It’s a good place to put books instead of throw them away. They really give books a second chance to live.”
Of Note: The Little Free Library movement began in 2009 with a single library in Wisconsin, according to the official website. The idea expanded and now operates globally, with an estimated 25,000 libraries located in more than 70 countries.