Little Free Libraries (LFL) are popping up everywhere and giving neighbors a way to connect with each other, in an almost old fashioned way. As Julie Harvey from Riverpark says, “It harkens back to older times. Because of the LFL, we’ve met all sorts of new people. Riverpark now has five or six LFLs just in our area. People stop and visit while looking for a new book, moms taking a walk with their babies in the stroller stop and talk, runners going by stop and get books, and retired teachers bring extra books from their career to our little library.”
Over in Land Park, Jay Gavron agrees, “We also love the idea of connecting with our neighbors, (for example) the senior citizen that lives around the corner or the parents with kids that happen to stroll by on any given weekend. We see so many people standing out by our library chatting with each other. It creates a great sense of community.”
So what exactly are these LFLs? Rick Rayburn of the Arden area explains it’s a national program where people build small libraries and place them in their yard. “Its primary purpose is to get books out of garage boxes & dusty shelves in a family room and get them into circulation for people to use.” He adds, “You read a book for free, put one in.” It’s that simple.
Neighbors are drawn to building these LFLs for many reasons. After learning about good friends in Oregon who built one, the Rayburns were inspired to do the same. Rick’s wife, Marianne, is a retired 3rd grade teacher and Reading Specialist. She reluctantly retired early due to signs of early dementia, but as Rick explains, “We saw this as a good way she could continue working with children’s literature.”
Harvey reminisces, “The program reminded me of the Bookmobile from Roseville community library. I remember every Saturday, with great excitement, riding my bike to the Bookmobile site to get a new book.” She continues, “With the LFL we could give the kids in our neighborhood and our grandkids the same experience.”
Gavron’s son, Jack, decided to build one for his high school Senior Project in 2014 after sharing a Sacramento Bee article with his family. Gavron explains, “We started building it together. It gave me the opportunity to show him how to draw up and plan a project, gather the recycled materials, and use our workshop full of woodworking tools to build something. It was a great ‘dad and lad’ experience for both of us.”
Regardless of the reasons, the libraries have become a huge hit, and the books that rotate through have sparked fascination for readers of all ages to browse. One day, Rayburn recalls, a car pulled up and out jumped four teenagers, and they started going through the library. They became really engrossed in looking through the books, so much so, they forgot their motor was running. Rayburn seized the opportunity to go chat with them and said he never would have had the chance to make a great, positive connection with those teens, had it not been for the LFL in their front yard.
“Sacramento is known as the ‘City of Trees,’ it would be great if Sacramento could also be known as the ‘City of Little Free Libraries’.” Harvey sums, “I love the saying it takes a village to raise a child. We’re just trying to be part of the village.” The Little Free Libraries are helping her and many others do just that.