Little Free Libraries are popping up all over the Twin Cities, and Falcon Heights residents and city officials are welcoming its "take a book, return a book" philosophy whole-heartedly.
The libraries, many of which are designed as larger versions of a traditional A-frame bird house, are usually set up in homeowners' front yards, with messages encouraging passersby to take a book that tickles their fancy, and when they're done, come back to re-stock it or leave another book in its place.
Anyone can use a Little Free Library; the system is completely open to whoever's passing by. Rick Brooks and Stillwater native Todd Bol created the Little Free Library concept in 2009, the mission of which is to promote literacy and share the love of reading while building a sense of community.
Keeping it local
Joni Fletty of Falcon Heights recently set up a Little Free Library at her home at 1880 Holton Street. She says it's "been a work in progress for the past nine to 12 months."
"I thought it was a nice, easy way for people to have easy access to books instead of having to make a trip to the library," Fletty said. "And [a good way to] bring the community together."
Fletty and her two adult sons built the library from an unfinished kitchen cabinet she found at a hardware store for $40 and scrap wood from around the house.
"It took about a month to complete," Fletty said, adding: "The roof was a challenge."
Pre-assembled Little Free Libraries can be purchased online, in models ranging from nearly $200 to more than $800, but with some creativity and found materials, Fletty completed hers for about $100.
Ask a Lion
With a little help from the Falcon Heights-Lauderdale Lions Club, the city and surrounding communities will likely see many more spring up in front of neighbors' homes in coming months.
Falcon Heights Neighborhood Commission chair Melanie Leehy and mayor Peter Lindstrom, a Lion himself, approached the Lions Club in July to request $600 to install two pre-made Little Free Libraries in Falcon Heights.
"[The idea to install Little Free libraries] was really just a brainstorming of the Neighborhood Commission," Lindstrom said. "There's two reasons why they're important: we want to encourage reading. The more we can do to encourage reading in our community, the more well off we will be.
"Second, it encourages community," he said, adding that he envisioned neighbors striking up conversations as a result of visiting the libraries.
"That type of interaction happens all the time."
However, after the Lions Club found the price tag per library too costly, one of its members stepped up and offered to build several from scratch with the same amount of money.
"They're being built as we speak," Lindstrom said. "By the time it's all said and done, there might be five or six [libraries in Falcon Heights.]"
A couple more Little Free libraries are expected to be installed in Lauderdale with those funds as well.
Fletty says she has seen people visiting her Little Free Library "every day" since its grand opening event Aug. 23.
"That reminds me, I have to go out and stock it," she told the Review.
Fletty has branched out from the obvious idea: to provide books for children and teens. Her library was originally stocked with "all the classics" for kids and adults, including authors like Hans Christian Andersen, John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway. She hopes to add some cookbooks in the near future.
Lindstrom said he was "already a believer in Little Free Library," and the opening of Fletty's library "really reaffirmed" that.
"[Little Free libraries] are a great thing for communities and neighborhoods," Lindstrom said, adding that his family was about halfway through the book his son Zach picked out: "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis.
"[The event] was a good chance for me to meet some new people and get a great book out of the deal," he added.
Falcon Heights also recently announced a drawing for two free Little Free Libraries, which residents can enter until Sept. 15. To enter, visit www.falconheights.org .
For more information about Little Free Library, visit www.littlefreelibrary.org .