Little libraries are as unique and varied as their owners. Called by various names like little lending libraries, Little Free Libraries® or book exchanges, they all share the same objective — community enrichment.
“Getting books in kids’ hands is the whole point.” – Sandy Coen
The concept is simple. A community member or organization installs a small to medium-sized structure to promote literacy and community. Library materials can be borrowed for an indefinite period and are either returned or shared with others. Surrounding neighbors often donate materials to the libraries. Once established, many library caretakers, known as stewards, are relieved of regularly replenishing their libraries as communities become invested in the libraries’ success.
Meet Florence & Sandy
Florence Jain and Sandy Coen were one of the first, if not the first, Little Free Library® stewards in Central Ohio. Since 2011, the couple have witnessed an explosion of little libraries and their awareness. Constructed of reclaimed renovation materials like oak flooring from their kitchen, Sandy and Florence enjoy the personal details of their library, including honoring their cats, Moo and Simon. In addition to their library, Sandy has built four other libraries, a Hobbit-themed library being among them. As part of a larger community, the couple helped Kyrgyz librarians start the first three little libraries in Kyrgyzstan and participated in World Book Night. Learn more about their library and other activities here.
4th Street Farms
4th Street Farms is a community-driven initiative to eat, empower, educate, and employ our skills together.
4th Street Farms‘ Little Free Library® is a direct extension of their mission to empower and educate and is a partnership with Bonga Media Group and the Weinland Park Community Civic Association. The farm provides an inspiring setting for the library and also gives the perfect space for community events and readings. Ohio Wesleyan University’s A Good Start School and other community donors have gifted children’s books to the library, and A Good Start School has committed to literacy programming. Situated in a neighborhood where only 18% of the residents have full-time employment, the library supports “youth connections, literacy, education, safety, creativity, and a lifetime of engagement within a revitalizing diverse neighborhood.” During the library’s dedication, Evelyn Van Til and Woody Drake spoke passionately about community and how the farm nourishes the body while the library cultivates the mind.
Jon Blake, Prolific Little Library Maker
Since October 2015, Jon has crafted 22 little libraries, starting with his own. Jon is a master at replicating the look of stewards’ homes, and his own library is a perfect likeness of his house. He enjoys the sense of community that little libraries create, meeting neighbors and creating a neighborhood feel. After 40 years in the commercial drywall industry, Jon found an artistic outlet in “retirement.” His love of folk art and working with his hands originated in the creation of amazingly intricate birdhouses, growing to doll houses and then playhouses. Little libraries are a natural extension of his folk art sensibilities. Moreover, his own library has inspired him to become a reader. Guessing he’d read a total of two books during high school, Jon shared he’s read 40-50 books since last October, especially enjoying Les Misérables. Jon plans to continue experimenting with library designs and wonders if a little library art exhibit might be a possibility.
Cbus Libraries’ Cherry Street Library
Cbus Libraries was invited to create a little library as part of PlaceMakes’ Cherry Street initiative. The project re-imagines how we interact, move and engage with our urban environment. The library welcomes pedestrians to W. Cherry Street while offering literature and nontraditional materials like yarn and knitting needles. Aesthetically, the little library incorporates historical maps of its exact location from the late 1800’s while embracing contemporary urban culture with artwork by artists Coreroc, Covert, Ketchup and Miss Birdy. In addition to the library, Cbus Libraries also knit bombed the adjacent pole with a crafty, cherry-inspired creation. Learn more about how PlaceMakes is transforming downtown Columbus here.
We’ve mapped chartered Little Free Libraries® (in yellow) and independent little libraries (in purple). Our map is open to edit with a Google account, and we encourage you to explore and enhance it.
With so many little libraries in Central Ohio, it won’t be hard to find one near you. Who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired to create your own! In fact, let us know if you are currently or planning to become a steward in the comments below.