A respected friend of ours wanted to share a story about a group of people from his hometown in Phoenix who are special people because they did something. They saw a need and gave in to the impulse to take action. They are the ones who make a difference. It's a great story and I wanted to share it with you today. I hope you enjoy it.
On a recent tour of the lovingly restored craftsman homes that make up the historic Encanto District near downtown Phoenix, I noticed wooden boxes mounted on poles in front of some homes. At first I thought they were large ornamental mailboxes until I noticed they were filled with books. “They’re the boxes put out by the Neighborhood Free Library”, my niece, who lives in the neighborhood, explained.
“How does that work,” I asked?
“Well, it all began at a neighborhood meeting a while back when some of our neighbors were bemoaning the demise of libraries and bookstores. The digital revolution was doing them in. Then someone suggested that we start our own little library here in the neighborhood. It would benefit both the old people who still read books and the youngsters who should. So, we did. We found the Little Free Libraries on the internet and just did what they were already doing. It’s worked great. It’s really popular.”
Little Free Libraries
Little Free Libraries is a nonprofit founded in 2006 in Hudson, Wisconsin that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world. The nonprofit builds and places weatherproof boxes to be used for the free exchange of books thereby profoundly increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds. They support volunteer stewards by providing free building instructions, access to free or discounted books through their partners, and an online store that offers Library kits and pre-built Library models. Executive Director Todd Bol explains their mission:
“We see ourselves as a branch of a branch that celebrates libraries and celebrates communities. As far as we’re concerned, libraries are the great last bastion of communities coming together. Anything we can do to encourage the public libraries…is big for us.”
Little Free Libraries has registered over 50,000 libraries in more than 70 countries and exchanges millions of books annually.
The neighbors in the Encanto District experienced the same impulse to help that ignited Todd Bol and his staff many years ago. “Don’t you think that’s how all nonprofits get started,” my niece asked me during our tour. “People just want to help when they see a need and one thing leads to another. That’s what happened here in Encanto. We just thought - all these old people can’t travel to the last of the bookstores located across town. And the children whose families are struggling can’t really afford books of any kind. The libraries are closing all over the place. It just seemed like a good idea to make books available right here on the street in the neighborhood.”
As I drove home from Encanto that day I thought that the nice people I just spent the afternoon with were different because they did something. They saw a need and gave in to the impulse to take action. They are the ones who make a difference.