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Leave a book, take a book from Little Free Libraries near Ohio State’s campus

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A Little Free Library, where community members can place or take books, on the corner of 15th Avenue and North High Street. Credit: Breanna Soroka / Lantern photographer

A Little Free Library, where community members can place or take books, on the corner of 15th Avenue and North High Street.
Credit: Breanna Soroka / Lantern photographer

Have a book? Leave a book. Need a book? Take a book.

Little Free Libraries are moving closer to Ohio State’s campus and some students said they want to help spread the word.

Todd Bol of Hudson, Wis., built a library box modeled after a schoolhouse in 2009, placed it in his front yard and filled it with free books for his neighbors, according to the Little Free Library website.

The idea caught on and there are now an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 registered Little Free Libraries around the world.

Rick Brooks, the Little Free Library co-founder and program director, said popularity isn’t the goal though.

“It is wonderful that the Little Free Libraries are so popular, but the real value is that it is individual people and neighbors getting to know each other,” Brooks said. “It’s great to be big, but it’s also important to be small and to value the small parts.”

Brooks said he met Todd Bol while teaching a workshop in Hudson, Wis. They began exploring social enterprise models and decided to build on the interest they had already seen in Bol’s first library. The idea took off in 2010 when they brought some Little Free Libraries to Madison, Wis., at a street fair after installing them on a bike path, and they’ve been expanding ever since.

One of these unconventional libraries is wedged between a light pole and a magazine box in downtown Columbus on East Gay Street. Silver paint covers what was once a newspaper dispenser and bold black letters read, “Free Books.”

The libraries are stocked by members of their communities. There are no late fees, no library cards and no telling what books you might find within.

About two miles from OSU, Sandy Coen and Florence Jain operate their own Little Free Library from their front yard on Oakland Park Avenue in Clintonville.

“You can’t steal a free book,” Coen said. “Our library gives a lot of kids a chance to get books on their own and makes it a friendlier neighborhood.”

Coen said Jain, a retired librarian, saw an article about Little Free Libraries and they decided to build their own in November 2011.

Their front yard library is a whimsical house-shaped box bearing the inscription, “My Treasures Are Within, Read a book — Return a book.”

Brooks said he’s noticed a trend in the kind of books people put in the boxes.

“The books that we hope people are putting in, and they seem to be putting in, are not the books they want to get rid of,”​ Brooks said. “They are their favorite books and they want to share the same pleasure they had with somebody else.”

The Little Free Library website has a registration system that allows library builders to include their library location on a map.

“As far as we know, we’re the first ones in Ohio to have one registered on the LittleFreeLibrary.org website and now there are at least 15,” Coen said.

Not all library builders choose to register their creations with the Little Free Library website.

Several uncharted free libraries can be found in Columbus, discoverable only by observation.

Coen said he does not think many OSU students know of the Little Free Libraries yet, but he hopes the idea will spread.

Justin Dunwiddie, a fourth-year in marketing and a student circulation assistant at William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library, said if Little Free Libraries were promoted to students around campus, the idea would catch on quickly at OSU.

“The idea of broadening knowledge for anyone and everyone is a great idea,” Dunwiddie said.

Jeremy Kundtz, a second-year in biological engineering, said he plans to build his own Little Free Library to put in his front yard on campus.

“Words are important and nobody reads or knows what’s going on,” Kundtz said. “If you can get people off of social media and reading, I think it’s a great idea.”

Charlie Fryer, a second-year in chemistry, said he was looking at graffiti around East 15th Avenue and North High Street when he first noticed a Little Free Library. He said from what he could tell, many OSU students have not heard of Little Free Libraries or noticed them around Columbus, but he likes the idea.

“You never know what you’re going to find there, and there might be a cool book that has more personality to it,” Fryer said. “It’s interesting to think who else might have owned that book before.”

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