Start a ‘little’ Library, side effects may vary.

You never know what the unintended consequences might be when you begin a ‘Little Free Library.’ A library in school is not as frequented as, say, the gym or football field. Even a vending machine gets more traffic than a bookshelf. That’s reality.

But hold on – there is a surprise outcome to this story.

After we installed our first Little Free Library unit in 2019 I sensed a slight uptick in reading. Though my classroom is a computer lab, we discuss literature; reading is a given. Books have not been replaced by technology. My shelves are stacked with copies of WIRED, and The New Yorker. (One book on my shelf, Eats, Shoots and Leaves helps start a discussion on good grammar and punctuation. Then there’s no escaping Orwell’s ‘1984‘ when discussing privacy or surveillance. But I digress.)

Today, we launched the outdoor ‘Little Free Library’ with two of my former students who kicked off the project, invited to install the name plate of the library’s Charter number – It’s 111423. Meaning ours is now on the library network map – as you will see here.

The Writer’s Club was on hand. This new club will act as its custodians. It’s another example of the explosion of interest in reading and writing, despite an annus horribilis we went through, which made school so complicated. They kicked off the club in January and they’re already writing and sharing fiction. These kids are now reading like crazy!

I teach a Writing and Publishing elective as well so it’s really gratifying. Sorry to burst your despondent bubble, ‘Death of Reading’ Op-Ed writers. If you walk into my school where cellphones are banned, you may see young people bowing their heads –to a page, not a screen.

As I said, with books, side effects may vary!

Will ‘Little Free Libraries’ do what eReaders didn’t?

Many years ago, in a neighbour’s store-room down Hildon Place, a few of us stacked our books together and called it a library. When the idea caught, we began issuing hand-made library cards. There was no organization to support us, but there was no shortage of kind old aunts who fed the librarians and patrons well.

So naturally I’ve been fascinated by the ‘Little Free Library‘ movement that’s been cropping up outside homes. The library (as you can see here) looks like a large bird house with a door and a plaque.

But will a little box on the curb spur a new interest in reading? We were hyperventilating with optimism when eReaders took the world by storm almost a decade ago.

A little library with no overdue fines looks quaint, but unlike digital trends, these decidedly analog ‘platforms’ (they are raised boxes, aren’t they?) have the potential to build conversations, and bring communities closer. There are some 40,000 Little Free libraries, to date, according to the website’s FAQs.

Starting one is as simple. Owners are asked to register one’s Library making it searchable online. Borrowers are urged to contribute a book for every book borrowed.

Some young people have launched their LFLs with aplomb, having constructed it out of scrap wood or from an old bookshelf. I could see this trend become almost a hobby, as young readers discover that there is more than one way to enjoy a good book.

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