By Dorri Partain
“Take a book, leave a book” is the concept of the Little Free Library program, and several new libraries have popped up around Historic Northeast this spring.
Whether it’s in front of a residence, or in a basket at a business or church, the concept is to share the love of reading with those who may not have easy access to books.
The idea of a free-standing library began in 2009 when Todd Bol of Hudson, Wis., built a schoolhouse decorated box and placed it in his front yard. His mother had been a school teacher that loved to read and share books; a glass-paned door made the free books highly visible to anyone that passed by.
Within a year of building and placing the first free library, Bol partnered with Rick Brooks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison to produce more little libraries. As the concept grew and more libraries were appearing around the country, the program registered as a 501(c)(3) non profit in 2012.
The first Little Free Library serving Northeast readers sits at the south end of the Richardson-Graham Bridge on Gladstone Boulevard, across from the Concourse. Installed by residents Michael Stringer and Jason Milbrandt nearly eight years ago, the library has been expanded and is lit at night, encompassing the idea that Little Free Libraries are open 24/7.
“The first one, we wore it out,” explained Stringer. “I estimate we’ve given out 7-8,000 books. People have also left canned goods, DVDs, hygiene products, and board games. We have people that stop by and regularly fill the library.”
At the Pendleton Heights Community Garden, their Little Free Library was installed in April 2018.
“During the pandemic, we saw extraordinary turnover of books and use of the LFL,” garden steward Whitney Blaire said. “For the garden stewards, we realized the library was another way for us to serve the community and provide outreach, so we finally chartered the library and will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony April 3 to celebrate.”
The ribbon-cutting celebration will include the Kansas City Public Library bookmobile, Lead to Read KC and Show Me KC Schools from 11-1 p.m. at the garden at the corner of Brooklyn Avenue and Minnie Street. Books for kid and teen readers will also be collected from those who have books to donate.
As a gift to Healing House, two new free libraries were installed on March 17. David and Sherry Finkelstein had met Healing House director Bobbi Jo Reed while volunteering to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the program’s residents, along with other Church of the Resurrection members.
“We loved the idea of donating a Little Free Library,” explained Sherry. “We first thought of giving one to Troost Elementary, where David and I volunteer one day a week with the students. But then the school was given one so we told Bobbi Jo about our idea and she loved it – she immediately gave us the locations.”
To fund the cost, they asked their three children to make donations instead of buying Christmas gifts for them. Instead of ordering the libraries from the website, they had them made locally and were able to purchase two for the cost of just one. Additionally, one of their daughters gave them three boxes of books she had already read to fill the libraries. Each library was stocked with 35 books and the remainder was given to the staff at Healing House so they could replenish the libraries as needed.
“I picked the paint colors to match the houses where the libraries are located, but I told them if someone is creative they can decorate them anyway they want,” said Sherry. “It’s such a pleasure, a blessing to be able to give these [libraries] because we have so much already and don’t need more things.”
Worldwide, over 100,000 Little Free Libraries are registered in 100 countries. Bol passed in 2018, but the idea of a little free library continues to grow, as he envisioned in this statement:
“I really believe in a Little Free Library on every block and a book in every hand. I believe people can fix their neighborhoods, fix their communities, develop systems of sharing, learn from each other, and see that they have a better place on this planet to live.”
For more information about the Little Free Library
program visit www.littlefreelibrary.org
Area Libraries & Locations
• The St. Francis – 300 Gladstone Blvd.
• Kansas City Museum – 3218 Norledge (north side)
• Grace United Community Church – 801 Benton Blvd.
• PH Community Garden – corner of Brooklyn Ave and Minnie St
• Healing House 1 – 100 S. Spruce Ave.
• Healing House 2 – 4402 St. John Ave.
• Della Lamb Community Services – 500 Woodland Ave.