SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – When you come upon that beautiful Little Free Library cupboard full of books, all your best childhood memories of reading are ignited. One of the most recent additions to the worldwide Little Free Library movement, an inviting cabinet built by Jeff Cox for his wife, Honor Kingston-Cox, is located on Main Street in Springfield directly across from the Community Center, compelling passersby to pause and browse for a moment. Anyone may take a book or leave a book – there are no “due dates” or late fees; the collection is constantly evolving, meaning a reader will find new selections at every visit.
Little Free Libraries were started in 2009 when Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisc., built a model of a one room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother; she was a teacher who loved to read. He filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard, encouraging those who visited it to “take a book, leave a book.” His neighbors and friends loved it, so he built several more and gave them away.
A colleague, Rick Brooks of UW-Madison, saw Bol’s do-it-yourself project while they were discussing potential social enterprises. They decided to promote the project nationally, inspired by community gift-sharing networks, “take a book, leave a book” collections in coffee shops and public spaces, and most especially by the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who started a major public library movement in the U.S.
There are now over 50,000 registered Little Free Library book exchanges in all 50 U.S. states and over 70 countries around the world, united by the mission statement of the organization: “Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.”
In Vermont, there are 29 registered Little Free Libraries scattered across the state from Isle la Motte to West Halifax. They are on busy street corners in Burlington and along quiet dirt roads. In addition to the Springfield site, there are seven other Little Free Libraries in southern Vermont.
Elizabeth Bissell’s Little Free Library on Signal Pine Road in Putney is on a remote hillside on a dirt road known locally as “Friendship Loop,” a popular walking path. Once an elementary school librarian, Bissell set up the library to encourage local walkers to stop, browse, and exchange books.
Another southern Vermont Library is located on Clark Street in Brattleboro in front of the One Cat Bed and Breakfast, offering books to local readers and travelers alike.
To see a complete map of Little Free Library locations and learn more about the organization, visit their website, littlefreelibrary.org.