By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN There is no library card needed, nor are there fines for returning books late. In fact, one doesn’t even have to return the same book he or she borrowed in the first place.
Delano’s Little Free Library was recently ceremoniously opened in the front yard of Gwen and Ed Briesemeister, who live at 502 Elm Avenue.
“The library was unveiled at a neighborhood event, complete with champagne,” Gwen said.
The Little Free Libraries concept has become a national movement, and began with social entrepreneur Todd Bol, who built the first one in his home of Hudson, WI and kept right on going, according to Gwen. Bol soon teamed up with his friend, Rick Brooks, in Madison, to form the non-profit group, Little Free Libraries, to spread the idea.
The concept is simple: erect a Little Free Library and let people exchange books as they please. Gwen said it is a great way to promote literacy, in addition to meeting people in the neighborhood.
Gwen said Bol and Brooks are well on their way toward fulfilling the goal of establishing 2,510 new libraries around the world, outdoing philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
“The group emphasizes that these institutions are in no way a replacement for traditional public and school libraries,” she said.
Bol said about 100 new Little Free Libraries are installed each week. Bol and Brooks set a goal of building 2,510 libraries, but are on track to have around 3,000 sometime in August, making them the largest library network in the world, Bol said.
Little Free Libraries have no due dates or regulations, and Bol said there is only one rule.
“Our motto is ‘Take a book, return a book,’ which is subtle but meaningful,” he said. “It doesn’t mean if you take a book, you have to return the same book. You can return any book you want.”
Bol crafted the first library in honor of his mother, and hung it outside his home in Hudson, WI. When he and his wife had a garage sale, Bol said he noticed how men, women, and children of all ages seemed to be taken with the library.
“In the same way a person’s voice changes when they look at a cute puppy, that’s what people did when they saw the library,” he said. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could turn that side on in people?’”
Gwen, who belongs to a book club, said she and Ed are both avid readers, and they felt this was a good way to share the books they have on their shelves.
She said some Little Free Libraries have themes such as children’s, adults, or themed books. A project Gwen is working on showcases the Mall of America giving away 20 Little Free Libraries to communities in Minnesota that do not have libraries. She said once a Little Free Library is registered, it is then placed on a map.
“They are all over the United States, and out of the country, as well,” Gwen said.
Minnesota’s extreme wether should not be an issue for the Briesemeister’s Little Free Library, with Gwen noting theirs is water- and weather-proofed.
Gwen said their Little Free Library has rotated through books a number of times, and said it has happened a couple of times that there are none of her books in the library, but rather those of other Little Free Library patrons. She said she has also placed a brochure on the library, and said several other people on Elm Avenue have discussed with her placing other Little Free Libraries in the area.
“We’ll be the most literate street in Delano,” she said with a laugh.
Gwen is the gifted and talented coordinator for Delano Public Schools, and Ed is a financial analyst for pension funds and commercial real estate purchases. They have lived at their Elm Avenue home since 2004.
For more information on the Little Free Library project, visit the link from the Delano Herald Journal homepage.