2016-03-11 / Community

Little by little, one for the books

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer


Scarborough Library Board of Trustees President Emily Read opened a Little Free Library last weekend. The library, made from an old newspaper dispenser, offers free books of all genres and reading levels. (Courtesy photo) Scarborough Library Board of Trustees President Emily Read opened a Little Free Library last weekend. The library, made from an old newspaper dispenser, offers free books of all genres and reading levels. (Courtesy photo) Scarborough Public Library has been offering a central place for residents to get books of all genres for more than 100 years. Now, there is a push to get literature into residents’ hands in a much different way.

This spring, the library will launch two Little Free Libraries, small privately operated libraries in which people can take or leave a book as they see fit: one at Memorial Park and one at the trail head of the Eastern Trail.

The first Little Free Library was started by Todd Bol in Hudson, Wisconsin, in 2009. The goal was to inspire the creation of at least 2,510 Little Free Libraries, the amount of libraries Andrew Carnegie helped to start. That was achieved in August 2012. As of January 2016, there were more than 36,000 Little Free Libraries in all 50 states and 70 countries. Approximately 9.3 million books are exchanged each year via Little Free Libraries.


Former preschool director Connie Weed opened this Little Free Library outside her Asselyn Drive home as a way to share the books she has accumulated over the years (Michael Kelley photo) Former preschool director Connie Weed opened this Little Free Library outside her Asselyn Drive home as a way to share the books she has accumulated over the years (Michael Kelley photo) There are few limitations on what books can be offered or rules regarding how Little Free Libraries can be run. The Little Free Library organization strives to “promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide and to build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.”

The idea is simple: Like municipal libraries, the Little Free Libraries offer the public an opportunity take a book free of charge. Those who take a book are encouraged to leave a book in return the next time they visit, although it doesn’t have to be the one they borrowed.

Scarborough Public Library Director Nancy Crowell had been following the fad for the last several years after reading about the concept and thinking it was a “wonderful idea.” As luck would have it, Scarborough Board of Trustees President Emily Read was independently keeping tabs on the idea as well.

“Over the past year, I have clipped magazine and newspaper articles about it,” Read said. “I thought they were a clever way to bring the community together and share some of the great things that people have read.”

Read approached Crowell earlier this year about the library opening a Little Free Library of its own.

“We thought it would be a really great project to put some library resources behind,” Read said.

The initiative is being paid for with money from a promotion Hannaford held in January and February in which one dollar from every specially purchased blue reusable bag went back to the library.

“I think it is a pretty interesting idea that reaches our library into our neighborhoods,” said Shawn Babine, who serves as the council’s representative on the Library Board of Trustees.

The library’s first Little Free Library is going to be located in Memorial Park. Crowell expects a May unveiling. A second location, perhaps at a trail head of the Eastern Trail, is also in the works.

“We are excited about it and everyone we talk to is excited as well,” Crowell said. “We think it’s a way to encourage literacy, but also build community.”

The library’s Little Free Libraries will be two levels and offer books for both kids and adults. What’s available will not be books in the library’s collection, but rather books donated and maintained by members of the public. Read said the library’s two Little Free Libraries will have a “great inventory available” between the books that are retired from Scarborough Public Library’s collection, donated from the public as part of the Trustee’s annual book sale, or provided by the Little Free Library organization.

“One of the things that have been so exciting is while the library and trustees have got the ball rolling, it’s really been a community initiative,” Read said, adding there is already interest among local Boy Scouts to get involved.

While many of the Little Free Libraries are made from wooden kits the organization sells, they come in all shapes and sizes. It is not uncommon to see the little libraries made out of recycled materials, built into trees or fashioned after existing buildings.

“The nice things about Little Free Libraries is they can be reflective of the people who built them,” Crowell said.

Read opened a Little Free Library outside her Windward Lane neighborhood last weekend. The library is made out of an old newspaper dispenser donated by the Portland Press Herald and decorated by Read’s three sons.

“I hope it can not only help me share my books with my neighborhood, but help me get some good lessons to share with folks as we go wider with this,” Read said.

The Scarborough Public Library’s Little Free Library will join another little library that Connie Weed has operated outside her Asselyn Drive home since August.

Weed, who ran the Little People’s Preschool on site for 35 years, said she wanted to have the library ready before she retired, but that wasn’t quite possible.

“I wanted to have it for the preschool. I thought it was a nice way for them to take out books and bring books back,” Weed said.

While the library has a strong selection of books for younger kids, Weed also offers a selection of books for adults and older readers as well.

“I have tons and tons of books. I didn’t want them to just sit around,” she said.

Weed says she switches out the books for younger readers every season or holiday and will soon showcase books for St. Patrick’s Day.

“Being an educator, I think reading is so important. Children get much more electronics time now, so that is something I am trying to encourage,” she said

Weed said the Little Free Library has been well received so far. One sunny day last November, Weed noticed a mother and young daughter sitting by the library reading a book. The girl said she would put the book right back when she was done. Weed refused, saying if the girl liked the book, she didn’t have to return it.

“I said ‘No, you can come everyday and take a book home.’ Her little face just beamed. I was thrilled,” Weed said.

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