By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Lester Prairie residents seem to be on the same page when it comes to the town’s two Little Free Libraries.
“We put them up this spring, and they are being used,” Lester Prairie City Council Member Ron Foust said. “We have a good blend of everything in there, including magazines.”
The premise for Little Free Libraries is simple: “Take a book, leave a book.”
In Lester Prairie, the books are stored in two sturdy wooden enclosures one near the pool at Lester Prairie City Park, and the other by the gazebo at Central Square Park.
These tiny libraries were inspired by Todd Bol of Hudson, WI, who started the nonprofit company Little Free Library with his friend, Rick Brooks of Madison, WI, in 2012.
The idea began in 2009, after Hudson built a mini one-room schoolhouse, filled it with books, and put it on a post in his front yard with a sign that said, “Free Books.” The free “library” was so popular, Hudson built additional ones and gave them away.
Pretty soon, the movement had spread, and book-enthusiasts all over the US began creating their own Little Free Libraries.
By January 2014, the founders anticipate the total number of registered Little Free Libraries in the world to surpass 10,000.
“They’re popping up all over the place,” Foust said. “There are several of them in the metro area, and they’re well received.”
According to an Oct. 9, 2011 article in the Star Tribune, the libraries are a fun way for neighbors get to know one another.
“It’s really a communication link,” Foust said. “People reminisce, and talk about which books they recommend.”
The physical structures of Little Free Libraries are as unique as the books they contain resembling schoolhouses, fish tanks, bookcases, boxcars, cabins, mailboxes, and more.
Lester Prairie’s Little Free Libraries were constructed by Lester Prairie High School student Tyler Bayerl, under the supervision of industrial arts teacher Joe Scoblic.
The city paid for a total of about $300 in materials, and maintenance workers Greg Mueller and Adam Birkholz did the installation.
Volunteers collected books to initially stock the library, and now, books are being replenished by residents.
Usage instructions as follows are provided on a sign inside the library door: “You may take a book with you, and all we ask is that, in return, you leave a book, enabling other readers to do the same. We ask that all reading material remain appropriate for the general public to use. Once you’re done reading the book, place it back in the library box for others to enjoy.”
“It’s really on the honor system,” Foust said. “People can keep the books for two months or one day. Parents can also read up at the park, while their kids are in the pool.”
Winsted has Little Free Libraries, too
Lester Prairie isn’t the only city in the area to latch onto Little Free Libraries.
In Winsted, the first Little Free Library appeared in July, at the home of Mike and Marie Cummings (124 Fairlawn Ave. E.)
“The first two weeks, I went though three boxes of books,” Marie said. “Now, people are bringing books back, and I haven’t had to replenish in a while.”
Cummings got the idea to have a library on her yard from Mary Wiemiller, who lives at 620 Shady Creek in Winsted. Mary hired Jack Lange, a student at Watertown-Mayer Schools, to construct her library. The library is now complete, and will be installed soon.
In the future, Wiemiller plans to hire Lange to build a second library, which she will donate to someone in the community.
“Jack loves to build things, and he’s been a delight to work with,” Wiemiller said.
Marie’s library was constructed out of scrap wood by Dan Hamann, who lives with Marie’s father in rural Winsted.
“Dan put a lot of hours into it,” Marie said. “It’s a few inches bigger than the recommended size, which makes it easier to fit bigger books.”
Depending on the amount of snow, Marie said she might keep the library out in the winter, and shovel around it for people to access. If necessary, the library can be detached from its post and taken indoors.
“The Little Free Library is a good way to meet the neighbors and kids,” Marie said. “I was surprised how many people actually knew what it was.”
Look at libraries
The locations of official, registered Little Free Libraries can be found at www.littlefreelibrary.org.
More information about starting a Little Free Library is also available on the site.