A few weeks ago a Little Free Library appeared in Grandmother Park, the tiny park in the 1100 block of Dewey Avenue dedicated to tots and their caregivers. Architect Ellen Galland purchased the Library, built by Chicago woodworker Bill First, at a benefit for Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse. A grandmother of three whose office building is across the alley from Grandmother Park, Ms. Galland donated the Little Free Library to Grandmother Park. Gay Riseborough, one of the founders of the park, painted the library, and Mary Jo Wisniewski helps to maintain it.
There are nearly 40,000 Little Free Library book exchanges around the world, according to the website littlefreelibrary.org. According to the history on the website, in 2009, Todd Bol of Hudson, Wis., built a model of a one-room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a teacher who loved to read. He “filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard. His neighbors and friends loved it. He built several more and gave them away. Each one had a sign that said ‘FREE BOOKS.’”
Mr. Bol and Rick Brooks of University of Wisconsin at Madison “saw opportunities to achieve a variety of goals for the common good.” They drew inspiration from several efforts: Andrew Carnegie’s support of 2,509 free public libraries around the turn of the 19th to 20th century; Miss Lutie Stearns, a librarian who brought books to nearly 1,400 locations in Wisconsin through “traveling little libraries” between 1895 and 1914; “Take a book, leave a book” collections in coffee shops and public spaces; neighborhood kiosks, TimeBanking and community gift-sharing networks; and grassroots empowerment movements in Sri Lanka, India, and other countries worldwide.
The mission of LittleFreeLibrary.org is “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.”