A month ago I went on a carriage ride through Charleston with a friend, and this particular ride took us on a route I rarely travel in the city. It wasn’t my favorite route – that’s down by the Battery – but it was pretty, and I saw some things I’d never seen before.
The best find really had nothing to do with Charleston and the history here, and everything to do with books. Tucked down on Logan Street between Queen and Broad, mounted on a post in the front yard of one of the charming homes, was a box with a glass door. And through the glass you could see books. From the bottom of the house hung a sign: “Little Free Library. Take a book… Leave a book… Or both.”
I’d heard about Little Free Libraries, but didn’t know there was one in Charleston. I really had no idea what an amazing organization it is until I did a little research. Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that promotes these little “libraries” that house free books for members of local communities. The idea was conceived by a man as a tribute to his mother, a school teacher and book lover. He designed a library that looked like a schoolhouse, filled it with books, and mounted it in his front lawn. Little Free Library was born with that one schoolhouse box. Their website estimates there are now between 5000 and 6000 out there in 36 countries. They’ve also formed a partnership with Books for Africa to provide Little Free Libraries with containers of books.
You can build your own, or buy one from the organization (though those seem pretty expensive), or even have one custom designed. Then you register it, and the coordinates are put on a map on the website. It’s only $35 to register, and you get the sign, a bumper sticker, some bookplates, and occasionally free books from publishers. Best of all, though, you get to share books, and have others share books with you. Don’t all readers love that?
Check out their website, and see if there is a Little Free Library in your community. If there is, leave a note to the steward of that library thanking him or her for contributing to the promotion of literature. Leave some of your favorite books, or if you are a writer, share a few of your own. And if there’s not a Little Free Library in your community, consider being a steward yourself. I am.