There are few things this world’s seven continents share, but a Little Free Library is among them. This statement wouldn’t have been accurate before 2020, when Antarctica joined the other six by acquiring its first one. The southernmost Little Free Library happens to be a hand-crafted gift from a fellow Coloradan, Dr. Russell Schnell, an atmospheric scientist with NOAA and Nobel laureate, who has experienced the long, dark, and frigid Antarctic winter nights intimately and knows about the power of books to help pass tedious time more pleasantly.
Chances are that, no matter where you live, you have come across a Little Free Library in or near your home town. Since the very first was created in 2009 to honor a beloved family member, the idea of providing a free book exchange has taken the world by storm and today, there are at least 125,000 such libraries in no fewer than 100 countries. In the U.S., they are represented in all 50 states.
To enlarge a photo, click on it.
The idea of putting free books across the globe and into a variety of neighborhoods was born out of the realization that not everyone knows how to read or write, or can afford to buy books for themselves or their children. “Little Free Library” was created as a nonprofit organization in Hudson, Wisconsin, with the mission to “be a catalyst for building community, inspiring readers, and expanding book access for all through a global network of volunteer-led Little Free Libraries.” Anyone can build a box, put it in their front yard, fill it with printed matter, and encourage those who pass to “take one or leave one.” But to become part of the official network, the project needs to be registered at a cost (according to the official website, the price for a generic charter is $39.95). Or it’s possible to order prefabricated boxes of various sizes, shapes, and colors, each of which will come with its charter already included.
Surveys have proven the positive impact of these community libraries for readers both small and tall. For someone fortunate enough to never have wanted for books, the thought that there are kids (and adults) who don’t own any is depressing. Maybe some of you have registered your own Free Little Library and become stewards. Hats off to you. But even if we haven’t (yet), we can lighten our groaning, overflowing book shelves and help spread and share some of the tomes we thin out.
While I have only seen Antarctica’s first Free Little Library in photos, I have enjoyed stumbling across several local examples in Colorado Springs by sheer happenstance. Some do their work quietly and unassumingly while others clamor for attention, thanks to special pains taken by the libraries’ stewards to ensure that passersby and potential readers take notice. But whatever the outward appearance, each little library holds treasures hidden in plain sight, alongside the promise of miragical discoveries in the pages of its volumes.
PS: I would love to know from my fellow bloggers if you have a favorite Little Free Library near you.