Little Free Library

Little Free Library

Call it the little library that curiosity built.

Hannah Lane-Davies, 13, was out for a jog with her mother, Elizabeth, during a recent visit to St. Paul, Minn., when they saw what Hannah describes as “a large birdhouse with books in it” on a nearby lawn. They checked it out and discovered it was a Little Free Library, part of a movement to promote literacy and love of reading by providing free book exchanges. The idea is simple: take a book or leave a book.

“It was love at first sight, and we saw three of them within a one-block radius,” says Hannah. “I knew that Kalamazoo needed a Little Free Library, and I wanted to bring this cool idea home.”

On an evening in September, with a couple dozen neighbors watching, Hannah untied a large red ribbon around her own birdhouse-like structure, thus opening Kalamazoo’s first Little Free Library, located at 615 Edgemoor Ave., in the Westnedge Hill neighborhood. It is Little Free Library No. 3,761 and at this point Kalamazoo’s only one.

“My goal is to see about 10 more in Kalamazoo,” Hannah says. “When I did my research, I found out that Michigan only has 12. Ours is No. 13. There might be more, but those are the officially registered ones.”

From left, Hayden, Eliabeth, Aaron and Hannah Lane Davies./Betsy Elsevier Photography

“Officially registered” means that the Little Free Library is part of an effort begun by Todd Bol and Rick Brooks of Hudson, Wis., in 2009 to create free book exchanges to promote literacy. The pair developed the idea of the Little Free Library as a tribute to their mothers, with a goal of building more libraries than Andrew Carnegie. The organization reached its goal in August, surpassing 2,510 LFLs, including an installation in Africa.

Hannah says that creating the LFL was a fun project that piqued a lot of interest among passersby. She and her father, Aaron, a pediatric doctor at Bronson Methodist Hospital, downloaded plans from the LFL’s website and constructed their library using salvaged cedar boards and shingles from a construction project. They modified the design a bit to include a fairy door on the side.

“When we were building it, we met all sorts of cool people who stopped and asked, ‘What is this? What are you making?’” Hannah says. “I love all the fairy doors you see in Ann Arbor and wanted to add that. If you leave a little present for the fairy, like a flower or something, you never know if she’ll leave something back.”

Before Hannah and her father had even finished construction, they received five bags of donated books from various neighbors and friends.

The library has room for roughly 40 books, and, as the steward of the library, Hannah knows it’s her job to make sure the library stays stocked with a variety of children’s and adult books. She asks only two things of library patrons: If you give a book, put your name in it and write something about why you liked the book. If you take a book, sign your name in it and leave a little note about it when you return it.

Kalamazoo’s first Little Free Library was the No. 3,761 officially-registered LFL.

“The library belongs to everybody — neighbors, friends and people we don’t know yet,” she explains. “When you take a book, look inside to see who gave it and who else has read it.”

Kalamazoo's first Little Free Library was the No. 3,761 officially-registered LFL.

Building the Little Free Library is just one of many projects….
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