Established in 2009 in Wisconsin, Little Free Libraries are a creative and community-based way to share books and promote literacy throughout the neighborhoods in which each Library is housed. The idea behind them is simple - take a book, share a book. Madison has an incredible amount of Little Free Libraries throughout the city, nearly one one every corner. “I don't think I have been to a city that has as many Little Free Libraries in a small area,” says Tracy Deal, a Friends of Madison Public Library volunteer.
For the last three years, Friends of the Madison Public Library has partnered with Central Library volunteers to place books in Little Free Libraries in public spaces within a couple of miles of Central Library. Books that have been weeded or withdrawn from the Madison Public Library shelves are given to Friends organizations to sell at book sales. Books that do not sell or have several duplicates are generously donated by Friends of the Madison Public Library to be placed in the various Little Free Libraries.
Tracy from the Friends sorts and prepares excess books, and hands them off to Liz Amundson, a Librarian at Central Library, who coordinates with volunteers that will ultimately place the books in one of the local, publically-sited Little Free Libraries. Volunteers then replenish these same Libraries 2-4 times a month. This program allows “those books to get another chance,” Liz explains.
Tracy explains that this program extends the literacy opportunity in Madison. “Especially for the areas that are not walking distance to a Library, it's a great resource to pick up a book quickly. It also keeps books from going to waste and get just a little more use out of them.”
Laurie Merrell, a volunteer, sees the impact of these books on her monthly route. “I definitely see that the books that I deliver are often gone the next time I come by! So I do think it's helping get more books out into the community.” Volunteer Jim Dunn echoes this sentiment, “Books are used and out of library circulation. I’m impressed with how books move.”
Jim says that he enjoys doing this volunteer project. “People share their thanks for supplying books and titles they enjoy.” On average, three out of four people report they’ve read a book they normally would not have read because of a Little Free Library. Thanks to the work of people like Jim and Laurie, Tracy and Liz, someone has found a new and unlikely favorite book!
Favorite Little Free Libraries in Madison?
Jim - Batch Bakery proofing oven
Laurie - Crowley Station’s community garden featuring glass window
Tracy - The one on South Shore Drive right on the bay
This year, Little Free Library is celebrating 10 years of neighborhood book exchanges around the world. To help celebrate, everyone is invited to The Big Share on May 17-19. This is a great opportunity to get new books, share your favorites with others, and spend time in the community.