The delight of tiny libraries is one for the books.
by Rebecca Hardiman
Just yesterday, I left a copy of one of my favorite novels, A Separate Peace, in the little library a block from my house and, in return, took a Toni Morrison hardcover. Score!
I can’t resist peeking into these sweet standalone kiosks that are often, but not always, shaped like a schoolhouse and invariably stuffed with you never know what, from, say, Harry Potter to David Baldacci, to stacks of well-worn romances and children’s classics.
Beside the sense of serendipity they instill, I love the inherent charm of these diminutive libraries’ designs—whimsical and wide-ranging, some carved within trees, others elaborately tiled or painted, each unique. The idea behind these book exchanges—or “Little Free Libraries” if you care to register one with the national nonprofit of the same name—dates back to 2009 when Todd Bol of Wisconsin built a miniature schoolhouse and stocked it with all manner of reading material as a tribute to his mom, a teacher and serious bookworm. Needless to say, the idea exploded. Little libraries have popped up all over the country—many in our own region, from front yards in the Hudson Valley to street corners of Great Barrington and beyond.
In Freehold, NY, librarian Barbara Auerbach installed one on her rural road across from a field of roaming cows and horses. “Over the years,” she tells me, “business has picked up. People in the community now regularly borrow or contribute to my Little Free Library.” Which is the whole point, after all: community.