Little Free Libraries cultivate love of reading, community

Ansley Puckett, Reporter

In communities across the country, large birdhouse-like boxes filled with free books sit outside homes, parks, schools and community landmarks. These “Little Free Libraries” are a part of the Little Free Library nonprofit organization.

Founded in 2009, the Little Free Library movement has over 100,000 registered libraries and seeks to promote literacy and community with its “Take a book, share a book” motto. 

One of these libraries, located outside of the Boone Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on King Street, is run by App State professor and former church president, Craig Fischer.

Fischer said he wanted to create a Little Free Library in order to promote literacy in Boone.

“I wanted to create a Little Free Library because I think it makes a statement about the importance of literacy, and I also wanted to do it because I have a lot of books and comics that I was happy to give away,” Fischer said. 

Stewards of the libraries, like Fischer, are in charge of upkeep and replenishment of the books after they’ve found new homes. 

“One of the things I do is, if a book is not moving in one Little Free Library, I’ll take it out to another one or fill some of the other Little Free Libraries around town,” Fischer said. “So, that’s probably the biggest part of the job, just to keep an eye on books and if they’re in there for three weeks and no one is picking it up, move it to another free library, and then someone will eventually pick it up in one of the libraries.”

Fischer said he also stewards Little Free Libraries so that kids who would otherwise not have access to books have an opportunity to read.

“I steward a Little Free Library out in Bradford Park, which is a trailer park out on (Highway) 421 near the hospitality house, and I did that after I worked with some kids out there, and I realized that they didn’t have a lot of access to books.”

In a community located 180 miles from Boone, six registered Little Free Libraries sit in Lugoff, South Carolina. One of these is outside Doby’s Mill Elementary School, which is run by the school’s media specialist, App State alumna Elizabeth Long. 

“I wanted to make sure that our students could access books even when the school is closed, so we figured (the Little Free Library) was an easy way to do it,” Long said. 

Long said becoming a steward for a Little Free Library was an easy process. 

“(Our) principal at the time, she knew of someone who liked to do woodworking, and he built it for us and painted it,” Long said. “She paid for the materials, and then it was just a matter of going online and registering it so people could find it, so it wasn’t difficult at all.”

One town over in Camden, South Carolina, the Camden Rotary Club, a service organization, sponsors four Little Free Libraries as a part of its literacy outreach program. 

Michael Wright, a member of the Camden Rotary Club and steward for the libraries, said that building the club’s Little Free Libraries was a community effort.

“It was suggested that we do a Little Free Library, so I took that project on with a group of Rotarians, and we got the community involved and did a little building contest for the Little Free Libraries,” Wright said.

Wright said the libraries are popular with community members, especially those located at elementary schools.

“In terms of the community response, I know that certainly, the educators where they are located have told me in both private and public conversations how much they enjoy them,” Wright said. “We set them up so that they just have to drive through the car line to get them, so while parents are waiting to pick up their kids in the afternoon, they can see it and stop by and get books.”

Fischer said he hopes the Little Free Libraries will be a way that he can pass on his love of reading to others. 

“I started reading comics by reading comics, and I still love comics, and I started reading cheap paperbacks that I’d buy at the local paperback exchange, and I feel like it opened all kinds of worlds to me and made me the person that I am,” Fischer said. “So, if I can pass on that gift of literacy to other people, I think that’s exactly what I want to do.”

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