Little Free Libraries Spring Up in Michigan

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This spring, Annie Gilson hired an artist friend to build and decorate a miniature bookcase with a roof and a glass door. Gilson filled it with books, then mounted it on a pole outside her Rochester home with a sign announcing, “Little Free Library.” Books began to disappear quickly, one nabbed by a 13-year-old girl who left a note saying, “I bet you think kids don’t read anymore with all the technology but I’m here to tell you they still do!”

An English professor at Oakland University, Gilson is delighted with her entry into the Little Free Library movement. “I had so many books and I can’t keep them all,” she says. “I thought this was a great way to reach out to like-minded people.”

Since Todd Bol built the first one in Madison, Wis., two-and-a-half years ago, more than 2,500 Little Free Libraries have sprung up around the world. As of mid-July, 14 Michiganians had registered their pop-up libraries (which typically hold 20 to 40 books) with littlefreelibrary.org.

They include one in Glens Park in Riverview, courtesy of resident and former librarian David Howell. The city worried about vandalism, he says, but there have been no problems, and many families come to take or drop off kids’ books. In Ann Arbor, retired schoolteacher June Anderson says dozens of popular novels have been “borrowed” from the custom red “book barn” built by her engineer daughter.

People can return the books, or not, as they like. Co-founder Bol says Little Free Libraries are building stronger communities while also promoting reading and literacy. The libraries’ little doors, Bol says, are “opening doors among neighbors.”

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