Little Free Library System Facilitates Book Sharing for All Ages
Writer & Photographer / Kylee White
Located around the Hamilton County and Geist areas, Little Free Library (LFL) locations are becoming more and more popular.
Bill Reed, a retired math teacher, started maintaining the LFL outside of his house in Geist around three years ago, making sure to keep the library stocked and ready for those who came by. He says he knows how important reading can be in a kid’s life.
“I was talking to one mother whose daughter is only 2 years old, and she told me her daughter would scream to get a book whenever they were near the LFL,” Reed says. “She said that because of the books they are reading to her regularly, her daughter already knows her colors, ABCs, animals and even some very basic words.”
LFL locations are exactly what they sound like. Whether they are in front of a school or placed in a nearby neighborhood, they include a small collection of books that people can choose from, and either return or replace with a different book.
“You can find them all over and they are all unique,” Reed says. “Every one of them is totally different. I have never seen two of them that were the same. In today’s day and age with everything being electronic, it’s nice to see that it’s really helping a lot in the city and in some places that kids might not necessarily have access to a library.”
“The LFL program is very simple – bring a book, take a book,” says Colleen Sommer, an LFL steward in east Carmel. “Unfortunately the book demand outweighs book donations, and many LFLs go empty for days or sometimes weeks if someone is not checking up on them regularly.”
Thankfully, that is where the steward program comes in.
“A steward is the person that takes care of the Little Free Library,” Reed says. “The steward is really the one that makes sure that there are no inappropriate books, or making sure there’s no trash or things like that in the library.”
Clifford Bennett was also a part-time steward for the Carmel community. After tending to an LFL that hadn’t been cared for, he found more around the area that library volunteers were unable to maintain due to limited staffing.
“There are a lot of LFLs in Hamilton County that are not getting a once-a-week visit to make sure it hasn’t been vandalized and hasn’t ran out of books,” Bennett says. He has been working on making sure LFLs are enjoyable for all who come to grab a book, and says it’s important that the library isn’t only clean, but also has a variety of books.
“The best thing we can do to support reading growth in our community is to make sure there are beginning-reader books as well as early-reader books,” Bennett says.
People can go online to get started with an LFL, and also donate and help keep the local LFL locations free of messes.
“Get involved,” Sommer says. “Like you, the LFL stewards are busy with their families and jobs. Most can’t make it to every location every day, so please consider bringing a couple books when you visit the parks. Feel free to tidy up the library box too. Maybe even consider volunteering as a steward for an LFL close to your home.”
“To me it is the absolute best possible investment into the future generations,” Reed adds. “Kids that read are better at school, much more informed and all around better off.”
You can learn more and find a library near you at littlefreelibrary.org.