In search of little libraries in Woodbury
Have you seen the miniature schoolhouses around the Twin Cities that act as a home for books?
The "Little Free Libraries" as they are called have grown in popularity over the past three years and is a new way of sharing books among neighbors.
Woodbury resident Qin Tang, whose Area Voices blog "On My Mind" is featured on the Woodbury Bulletin website, has started an effort to bring one to Woodbury.
"I've known about it for a while," she said. "I thought if we could get one in Woodbury that would be nice - it's a cute idea."
The 'Little Free Library'
The first "Little Free Library" in was started by Todd Bol from Hudson, Wis., in 2009 when he placed a homemade wooden box on a pole in his front yard containing a dozen or more books free for the taking. Its popularity led Bol and his friend Rick Brooks to form the nonprofit group Little Free Library.
Essentially, the "Little Free Library" is a miniature schoolhouse, which invites passersby to take or donate a book.
"It's like a little dollhouse where you take a book, leave a book," Tang said, "or take a book and bring a book back."
The mini-libraries are typically handmade by whoever starts them and include "Little Free Library" signs that can be ordered from the group's website.
Since the libraries are unlocked and typically not patrolled, they rely on the honor system, Tang said.
"It just takes on its own life," she said.
Since 2009, according to the "Little Free Library" website, more than 2,500 such libraries have sprouted up in more than 40 states and countries, including Germany, Ghana and India.
In the Twin Cities, the closest "Little Free Library" is at Guardian Angels Catholic Church in Oakdale. The church has two libraries - one located in its courtyard for prayer and grieving books and one in a pine tree behind the church for gardening books.
"The libraries can have any kind of books," Tang said. "It depends on what most people in the neighborhood read."
Building a library in Woodbury
Tang, who is a librarian at the Minnesota Department of Transportation library in St. Paul, said she had known about the mini-library concept for a while, but when she saw one in a refurbished telephone booth in Germany, she decided it was something that would be nice to have in Woodbury - despite the fact that Woodbury already has its R.H. Stafford Library.
"It's just a little book exchange, so it's not competing with the library at all," she said. "I think it's a nice tool to build community and promote literacy."
Even though Tang said she would be willing to manage the project and even have it located in front of her house, she said she needs to find someone who is willing to build it.
"Little Free Libraries" can be purchased pre-made from the organization's website, but Tang said she thinks it would be nice to find someone local who is experienced in woodworking.
"I think it would be nicer to make one that's more customized and tied to Woodbury," she said.
One option Tang said she considered was reaching out to the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts about making it a possible project for them.
"I'm sure there are people in Woodbury who are handy and who can make one," she said.
The "Little Free Library" website includes instruction on how to build the structures.
Tang, who lives in the Eagle Valley neighborhood, said she could see the "Little Free Library" going up anywhere in Woodbury.
"I just want to get one here somewhere," she said. "Usually they're in neighborhoods though because kids walking by can stop and check out a book.
"But right now I just want to have one so it can go any place."
Tang said she is optimistic a "Little Free Library" can find its way to Woodbury.
"Now people spend so much time playing games and on the Internet, so people are reading less and less," she said. "If we have something in the neighborhood - especially something they can see when they're outside walking or kids are outside playing - they can stop by and check it out and maybe find a book that they want to read.
"Maybe we can do one in all the neighborhoods in Woodbury."
More information on the "Little Free Library" movement can be found at www.littlefreelibrary.org. Anyone interested in starting a "Little Free Library" in Woodbury can contact Qin Tang at: firstname.lastname@example.org.