During a summer when everyone could use a little more escape, the Little Free Libraries in area are a way for individuals and families to offer a window to the world and promote the love of reading through the lending libraries in their yards.
The first Little Free Library book-sharing box was built in 2009 in Wisconsin. Today there are about 100,000 registered Little Free Libraries in all 50 states and 108 countries. The Little Free Library website (littlefreelibrary.org) offers an online map of all who register their libraries. There are more than 50 in the area, with even more that aren’t registered.
Forest West resident Niki Sevven said her family recently installed one at 5314 Arbor Vitae Dr.
“I had wanted one for a while but never felt the need since the Collier Library is a block away from us,” Sevven said. “When the coronavirus shut down the libraries I asked my dad John Williamson (of Oak Forest) to build one for me as a birthday present. He did a fantastic job and I am in love with it.”
Helen Spencer’s family has one in Oak Forest at 2307 Lamonte Ln.
“When the Book Scene was open, we would occasionally buy books to keep it well-stocked,” Spencer said. “But since the pandemic and Book Scene closing, the library has been bursting at the seams. We see people donating and swapping books several times a week, a bright spot during a pretty stressful time period.”
Little Free Library’s Margret Aldrich said they can be placed anywhere to increase book access and bring people together.
“Many sprout in front yards, near a sidewalk,” Aldrich said. “But they also appear at public parks, schools, community centers, laundromats (and) hospital waiting rooms.”
Aldrich said if you want to place a Little Free Library on public property, you need permission to do so.
Adults aren’t the only ones with the idea for a library. Several have been the result of a Girl Scout or Boy Scout project.
Angela Hider’s son, Sammy, a Boy Scout with Troop 604, designed and constructed its “lending library” on 31st Street, with help from his parents, to earn his Family Life merit badge.
And Oak Forest’s Laura Tunstall has one at 1403 Candlelight Ln. that was her daughter Maya’s Girl Scout Silver Award project.
Some are inherited from a previous homeowner. Such is the case for Léne Baggett, who owns Robbie the Robot at 4802 Blanton Blvd.
“The current one standing is an exact replica of the last one, who got destroyed by weathering and carpenter ants over the past few years,” Baggett said. “This one, his eyes are actually able to light up, and the pieces were made to be easily removable to repair if needed. My husband and father-in-law made this one out in Waller, Texas.”
The reasons for wanting a library are varied, but all involve a desire to create a sense of community.
Realtor and Garden Oaks resident Virginia Ledwell has one along with a bench and a hammock.
“Every day I see someone reading on the bench,” Ledwell said. “We love that. As a former reading teacher and English and Spanish major, literacy holds a special place in my heart.”
Timbergrove Manor’s Dina Medley won her little library at an auction for the Stephen F. Austin Medley scholarship program. It was built by her uncle, who builds little libraries and wooden coolers to donate as silent auction items.
Medley said she finds that because she lives at the end of a long street with a cul-se-sac, the library isn’t so much loved for its contents, but rather it is used as an activity for families.
“(People) travel down (1803) Nauts Court on bikes, on foot and in strollers just to peek inside and satisfy their curiosity,” Medley said.
Oak Forest’s Mario Barrera said it is not unusual to see a parent reading to their child while seated on a bench by their library at 5112 De Milo Dr. He also said his neighbors are the best at keeping the library stocked.
Sevven said she relies on her neighbors, too.
“I try to make sure the books in the box reflect diverse authors and characters,” she said.
Medley takes some of the free books that the Oak Forest Elementary library puts out each year to fill hers up.
“I try to get as many as I can, especially holiday books, and then throughout the year I put out those books in the library,” she said. “I also get free books from libraries that have ‘take free’ shelves.”
Baggett said her robot carries children’s books on the bottom and adult books on top.
“And we’ve been fortunate to only be vandalized once so far, a few years ago, when someone stole all the books overnight,” she said.
If you have a library you’d like to register, visit LittleFreeLibrary.org/registration-process.
Registered libraries have an official charter sign and charter number. You register by purchasing a charter sign.
“Registration allows you to add your library to the world map and grants you access to a network of benefits,” Aldrich said. “If you purchased a library from the Little Free Library website, it comes with a charter sign, and you are already registered.”