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How the Little Free Library Is Reinventing the Library

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What if the library was scattered all around a city, instead of in one central location and in a handful of branches spread out around neighborhoods? What if you only had to walk down the street a block to browse a smaller version of a public library, and it contained two dozen books instead of so many volumes you're overwhelmed and can't decide which book to pick up? What if some of these libraries were the size of bird houses and others were the size of dollhouses, and yet other ones were somewhat larger and had picture windows? And, what if you never had to worry about having a library card, or ever paying a fine? Sound too good to be true? Well, this type of library already exists, and it's becoming a worldwide phenomenon.

Little Free Library's can be theme-based, cater to local book tastes of regular users, and be placed nearby schools or universities, or none of the above. It seems the only thing preventing more of these handy libraries from springing up in every city is for people to first hear about the idea, and follow through with making the time to make it a reality and putting forth the effort to care for a community's Little Free Library. With a little more imagination and perspiration, it's easy to imagine a fairy tale version of a library popping up on every corner in the country could happen. If you believe in it strongly enough, a small library the size of a bird house could appear in a pea patch, next to a bike trail, or in a local park near you. Book lovers are a hearty breed, and they will find a way to share knowledge with each other and with the rest of the world.

In a time when the Commons is becoming less common, and when government spending for learning and literacy programs is being cut back, this seems like the country's will to learn and promote open minds through literacy is happening, regardless of a the lack of funding for government programs or a sputtering economy. But the people involved in the movement point out how this is an enhancement to the traditional public library, and not meant to replace public or institutional libraries.

Started in Hudson, Wisconsin, by social entrepreneur Tod Bol, Little Free Library is a meeting place between free access to books and literacy promotion, coupled with DIY woodworking. When word spread through Wisconsin, its founders formed a non-profit group, and Little Free Library has turned into a worldwide book sharing and social movement. Its reach has extended as far away as Canada, Mexico, Australia and Afghanistan. The people who began this book-loving movement want to see at least 2,510 Little Free Libraries all around the planet, which would surpass the number of libraries built by Andrew Carnegie. Something tells me that by the time this idea has spread by word of mouth and at the speed of online communication, there will be far more than 2,510 mini-libraries somewhere in the world. Maybe one will pop up just down the street from where you live.