Hey, what are those books doing out there?
On a Tuesday morning late last month, some 25 residents of Governor’s Bridge (just east of Rosedale) celebrated the official “opening” of their own Little Free Library in that ’hood’s Nesbitt Park. It’s the latest local installation of the movement started by Wisconsin residents Todd Bol and Rick Brooks, who, in 2010, put up book-filled miniature houses in public with the intention of spreading literacy and fostering a sense of community.
How does it work?
The idea is simple: “Take a book, return a book.” Neighbourhood resident Jacqueline Jordan initially stacked the library with about 50 items—from picture books to The Lord of the Rings. Every day, she goes to check on the inventory, adds new books when gaps are noticeable, and makes sure the ones that were put in by others are suitable for a younger audience and in good condition. Nobody is obliged to leave a book, but the system hinges on a give-and-take principle. For anyone who’d like to put up a library of their own, the founders offer fully assembled models for purchase on their website, but they also encourage people to get creative and build their own. Though registration isn’t mandatory, every library that signs up is assigned a charter number and added to an online map, which is essentially the Little Free Library directory.
Every morning, area residents gather their kids at Nesbitt Park and one or two parents walk them all to school. Last year, Jordan, mother of eight-year-old twins, and her neighbourhood’s Ratepayers Association approached councillor Mary Fragedakis to get approval for setting up the 24/7 library in the public space. Once she got the green light, Jordan asked her friend Bill Wrigley—who put up Toronto’s first Little Free Library about two years ago in the Beaches—to build her one of his own designs, which she then painted with her daughters. The library is geared towards children and young adults; the day after it went up, kids had already rummaged through the box, taking books on their way to school.
Who else is doing it?
The concept has quickly spread across borders and oceans. As of January 2014, Bol and Brooks estimate the total number of registered libraries to be between 10,000 and 12,000 worldwide. In Toronto, Wrigley has given talks at community events to help promote the idea, bringing along a portable model of his own design. There are currently 17 registered Little Free Libraries in the GTA, but Wrigley estimates that number is closer to 50 when you include unregistered ones.
12,000: Approximate number of registered Little Free Libraries worldwide.
56: Number of countries that have them.
25: Estimated number of books cycling through each library every month.
4.5 million: Minimum number of books that will be exchanged worldwide in 2014.
For more information, visit littlefreelibrary.org.