Through these recent rather uncertain and unsettling times, I began to slow down and find comfort in the little things. Not that I haven’t taken notice of them before, but ever since the world essentially shut down and 2020 descended into chaos, the little things have become especially important and even more so now as we enter a period of recovery from recent events. In addition to nature walks and bike rides through the Florida woods, I have also gone on walks to check out my local Little Free Libraries for any good reads.
There is so much about them that sparks joy; each one is unique, and what lies inside is a surprise each time. It is not only a highly sustainable practice, but it also gives the feeling of community during such a prolonged period of isolation. Yes, we may not have been able to see each other, but at least we could read each other’s books, helping to bring a feel of connectivity to our community. I have found libraries of various sizes, shapes, and colors. Some are large with double doors, and some are smaller and have a top-shelf designated for all genres of books, while the bottom is reserved for children’s books complete with stuffed animals.
Some even reserve a spot at the library base with a little flap for dog treats, helping to make the experience beneficial for our four-legged friends. Some even go the extra mile and create libraries that look exactly like their home, paint color and all. Some businesses will partake and have a fun box of assorted books for customers to rummage through. I can’t tell you how many times I have found exactly what I am looking for; it’s almost as if they are a magic box that will shuffle their magical reserve of books to produce exactly what each person wants upon opening. There are times when I am introduced to new books that I have never heard of and end up becoming a favorite. Whenever I am finished with a book, I drop it off in another Little Free Library for someone else to enjoy, and off it goes back into the community rotation.
Founded in 2009 by Todd Bol, the idea of a Little Free Library that follows the “take a book, leave a book” philosophy has exploded. By 2020 there were over 100,000 registered Little Free Libraries in over 100 countries worldwide. They have also helped create a movement that has helped foster community and accessibility to books in previously underserved and marginalized communities. With initiatives like “Read in Color” that helps to bring diverse books to Little Free Libraries to not only celebrate marginalized voices but also bring perspectives of marginalized groups to readers. The “Impact Library” program provides a no-cost Little Free Library in areas where books are scarce and in native communities, and tribal lands called the “Native Library Initiative.”
The Little Free Library is a powerful vehicle for impacting large social causes and a smaller scale. A perfect example would be my dad, whose interests include normal dad things like digging up sprinkler heads in the yard and napping. He came to me excitedly one day when he discovered that one of his neighbors put up a Little Free Library; the fun convenience of having an ever-changing variety of books so close to him during a pandemic caused him to take the plunge finally. Now I get to hear all about his recent author discoveries, the turn he didn’t expect coming in a plot, or the ranking of his most favorite books he’s read so far; he even got a library card to expand his options even more.
In these most recent hardships, Little Free Libraries are a ray of warm sunshine. Through these little free portals, we can find breaks from reality and encounter worlds that we may not have normally wandered into on our own. It not only makes waves through a community, but it helps fill the gaps of underserved and marginalized communities as well as opening the door to a new hobby for people who would have never thought that they were a reader. There is an undeniable power in reading; we have to take a walk to find out.