What are Little Free Libraries?
You may have noticed what look like mailboxes filled with books popping up around town. These unique little things aren’t mailboxes at all. They’re called Little Free Libraries, and Wichita is now home to about 31 of them. The concept is pretty simple, really. Everyone is invited to take a book and leave a book, completely free of charge.
The idea began in Wisconsin in 2009 with a man named Todd Bol. Be built a Little Free Library that resembled a schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, who had been a teacher, and who loved to read. Eventually, he began distributing them to his friends, as well. The libraries caught the attention of Rick Brooks of UW Madison, and together Bol and Brooks developed the Little Free Library movement.
The Little free libraries can serve a variety of different purposes, and those purposes depend heavily on the builder. Primarily, they encourage reading and literacy, increase access to books, give neighbors a place and purpose to share.
Little Free Libraries received its nonprofit status in 2012, and made it to Wichita, Kansas in the same year.
Little Free Libraries make their way to Wichita
That year saw the opening of two Little Free Libraries in Wichita. The first is located at 1450 N Salina Ave in Riverside, and the second, which followed by just a couple of weeks is the Sleepy Hollow library, located at 544 N. Fountain in College Hill.
Kim Burton is a steward of the Sleepy Hollow library, and she also runs the Wichita’s Little Free Libraries Facebook page.
“I just really love reading but don't like to buy books and own them forever, the "to read" piles make me anxious, so I like that with the Little Free Library I just read whatever comes to me, it makes it a lot more fun,” Burton said. “I've also read that adults who read around kids set an example of reading being part of normal life, so kids are more likely to want to read themselves. Reading is at the foundation of all other learning so anything we can do to encourage literacy is good for the future success of our communities.”
Though patrons in some communities take more than they give, Burton says this hasn’t been a problem in Wichita.
“Our Wichita neighbors are generous, tend to donate more books than they take, so when my library is overfilled I stamp some books with our charter number and "Wichita Kansas" and leave them in libraries all across Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, as far as Michigan. It's really cool to see how we're connected to this huge movement.”
There are more than 40,000 Little Free Libraries worldwide, and that number is rapidly growing.
“More seem to pop up every week so it's hard to keep track,” Burton said. “We are working on a printable map, the best way to find them is with our list on Open Wichita.”
You can view that list here.