Little Free Libraries are such amazing things, and I’m so proud to have played a part in bringing one to our elementary school.
I cannot tell you how much joy it brings me to stop by the playground with my kids on the weekend and see children peeking eagerly into that box or sitting on a nearby bench reading. It can be a challenge to keep it full, but we’ve been lucky to receive some large book donations. And if we can help build a library for kids who don’t have many, or any, books at home, I’m so happy to do that work.
I was once that kid with very few books at home. Books were considered by my parents to be "too expensive" especially because "after you read it once, it's not useful." No one in my family had a library card. We had a library, of sorts, at my small school. It was basically a couple walls of shelves in a conference room. We had no librarian; the secretary would be brought in to stamp our books, and she was not too happy about it. Given those limited resources, and with no one to make recommendations, I checked out my favorite, "The Secret Garden," over and over until I'd filled an entire library card, front and back, with my signature (so much for my parents' idea that a book is only read once).
I remember visiting the public library in the neighboring town (our little town didn't have one) with my best friend the morning after a sleepover. Our moms had arranged to meet there for the pick-up, and that may have been the only time my mom was in the library. I remember kneeling in front of a low shelf of picture books, excitedly pulling some out and flipping through them with my friend before my mom arrived. I was so, so sad to leave and so sad to have to leave those books there!
Much later, in my last year of high school, I remember taking a field trip to a community college library to conduct research for a report. This was back in the days of card catalogs, and I still recall that musty smell as I flipped through those yellowing cards. I remember being so intimidated of the library, not knowing how to find information, too scared to ask.
It wasn’t until my college years that I began to finally feel at home in a library, to know my way around, to feel comfortable going there for research or just to relax and read for pleasure. Today, I literally feel my blood pressure drop, feel a sense of well-being rush through me, whenever I enter a library or a bookstore. These are my favorite places in the world.
I have two children, and they know our town’s library intimately, have explored every nook and cranny during our weekly, sometimes twice a week or more, visits. The librarians know our names. Of course, it’s easy to think, well, every child in our town has this opportunity. The library is open to all, free to all.
Yes, but someone has to bring the child there. That might not be possible, for a whole variety of reasons. In my family, that reason was apathy, but there are many other factors involved. As just one example, there’s no public transportation in my town, so for families without a vehicle, even getting to the library can be problematic.
Our Little Free Library is at the public elementary school my children attend, in an economically diverse neighborhood where 70% of the students receive free or reduced lunch. These kids can walk to our Little Free Library. They can browse the books, take whatever looks interesting. They don’t need to worry about fines for books that are overdue or lost.