LOGAN – The Little Free Library (LFL) is a growing phenomenon. It’s the 10th anniversary of the first neighborhood book exchange, built by Todd Bol as a tribute to his mother, a school teacher in Hudson, Wisconsin.
Bol has since passed away, but his legacy has grown to 90,000 libraries on a stick. The first one Bol built resembled a one-room schoolhouse. It was built out of wood from an old garage door.
Cache Valley has its fair share of Little Free Libraries, with about 20 of them on posts in front of houses.
Joyce Kinkead, an English professor at Utah State University, has one in a park adjacent to her house.
She said nobody is in charge of the group, everyone is a steward of their individual libraries.
“It’s kind of an organic process,” she said. “People learn about the libraries and either buy or build their own.”
Kinkead said she always wanted to be a librarian and this was her opportunity to be the curator of a library.
“People don’t always bring them back,” she said. “We have a lot of options for getting books, so I can keep it full.”
The idea is to have people take a book and leave a book so the inventory changes regularly.
“I will find book sales, some of the books are scholastic books and some our children’s books,” she said. “I want to make sure that children have access to books.”
Kinkead spent some time in Europe and found some Little Free Libraries there.
“Free Libraries are lots fun and a touchstone for book lovers,” she said.
Jennifer Duncan, a librarian at USU’s Merrill-Cazier Library, said she has one in her yard and it’s been a great experience. Her father-in-law built her library and painted the shingles blue to match the home they moved from.
“It’s just a nice to see people take a book,” she said. “I try not to be invasive, but I feel like I should talk to them.”
Duncan manages the Facebook page for people with LFL when she has a chance.
“I can put whatever I want in my library,” she said. “They might bring it back and they might not.”
Duncan said it is not really self-sustaining, people don’t always bring books or come back, so it’s important to get an infusion of fresh material.
“I don’t want to discourage people from going to the Logan public library,” she said. “I want to compliment what they are doing.”
Duncan said she tries to make the library look nice.
“I don’t like books that are past their span,” she said. “I want the books new and looking nice.”
Most of the LFL stewards know where their constituent’s boxes are.
Mark Damen and his wife, Fran Titchener – both History professors at USU – have one on a post in front of their home. It’s near a bus stop and they gear theirs more towards children.
“We had a mother bring her kids by to get some books,” Damen said. “The mother said her kids kept telling her they wanted to go to the library and she knew it had closed.”
She finally got her kids in the car, and they directed her to their LFL near the bus stop.
“They checked out books and we had a great time visiting,” he said. “It has really been a good experience.”
Titchener said it’s like having a reading device, you can change books.
LFL owners are passionate about their libraries and the people they have met because of them.