The Little Free Library phenomenon is not a new one, nor is it particularly innovative. It is, however, something new and different for our part of the country and one that is quickly gathering momentum. Electronics have captured almost all of our attention and have quickened the pace of society all around us. Lately, these little oases are cropping up as an alternative to our preoccupation with cell phones, televisions, and laptops.
The first local Little Free Libraries in Wake County showed up in Fuquay-Varina in 2014. A member of a local Rotary Club was visiting family in Florida in mid-2013 and ran across a tiny wooden house on top of a pole in a Rotary-sponsored park. Intrigued, she did some research and discovered that the concept was part of a world-wide movement called Little Free Libraries that began in 2009! At the time of her discovery, there were already over 12,000 of such structures all over the globe.
In 2009, project founder Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, built the very first little library in his front yard as a tribute to his mom, who had been a schoolteacher who loved to read. An instant hit, he made a few more for family and friends, and the concept caught on locally. Not long after, he teamed up with a friend, Rick Brooks, and launched the formal Little Free Library program. Their inspiration came from several sources: Andrew Carnegie’s quest to build thousands of libraries across the country at the turn of the century; the work of Lutie Stearns, who brought books to thousands of locations across Wisconsin during the same era; the “take a book, leave a book” concept that was popular at coffee shops and other public locations; and grassroots empowerments movements in other countries.
Their goal was to exceed the number of free libraries that Carnegie’s work had created at the turn of the century. Not only did they exceed that number fairly rapidly, but by the time the Downtown Fuquay-Varina Rotary Club discovered the concept, the number of Little Free Libraries world-wide was closing in on 12,000+. As of January 2016, the number has surpassed 36,000 and is still growing.
When the first Little Free Libraries were installed by the Downtown Fuquay-Varina Rotary Club, the concept caught fire and several other communities erected their own versions. Because of their small size and ability to personalize, they have become a great way for small civic groups to address literacy and public art needs locally. Holly Springs was no exception, and now can boast of several Little Free Libraries within city limits.
In early 2015, Rotarian Marguerite Greene brought the concept to the Holly Springs Rotary Club from her work on the Little Library project in Fuquay-Varina. The club planned the construction and design of the boxes and approached the town council for approval of the concept and placement of two boxes. The project was an education and literacy project that hoped to also promote the arts through the help of the Holly Springs Arts Council and the Holly Springs High School art department.
With the enthusiastic support of Mayor Dick Sears and the entire town council, the Holly Springs Rotary Club enlisted the help of Rob Smaldone from Northern Valley Builders and Mike Boone of Window Genie to actually construct the boxes. Brenda Priest and the Holly Springs Arts Council then provided the art supplies for teachers Jayna Huffines and Thomas Volkman and students from the Holly Springs High School art department to supply the artwork on the boxes themselves. Their creativity and enthusiasm for the project were one of the highlights of the project for all involved!
With the help of Assistant Director Adam Huffman of the Holly Springs Parks and Recreation department, two locations were secured and vetted for installation. The first location was in front of the W.E. Hunt Recreation Center, and the second location is on the back lawn of the Holly Springs Baptist Church on Main Street. Both are accessible to any and all residents at all hours of the day.
The boxes were dedicated to the public on September 23, 2015 at the Hunt Center by members of the Holly Springs Rotary Club, Mayor Dick Sears, and members of the town council. “The Rotary’s Free Little Library project offers free books to members of the local community,” Rotary President Natalie Babson shared. “It is a ‘take-a-book, share-a-book’ opportunity to engage the community in sharing [the] love of reading.”
Although those two boxes are fairly new, they are generating a lot of interest in a community that is full of young families. They are never out of books, and they are mentioned on social media on a regular basis as a place to donate used books in the community. Selection changes weekly, based on usage, but there is always a good mix of children’s books, adult selections, and nonfiction.
Less than a month ago, the homeowners association in Holly Glen subdivision installed its first Little Free Library at its clubhouse on Hollymont Lane. Resident Mike DeSarno and his son Vincent built, painted, and installed their box with a chalkboard paint door, and mentioned on Facebook that the HOA is willing to pay for the registration costs for two more. Another neighborhood resident has already volunteered to construct one of the two additional boxes that Holly Glen plans to install.
This is only one report of new Little Free Libraries cropping up in subdivisions and people’s front yards. Many library boxes are not registered with the Little Free Library program, and as such can be hard to locate. They do, however, all offer the same things – easy access to books for all ages and reading levels, a destination place for families who are trying to disengage from electronics, and a splash of art in places that need it. There are no library cards, no overdue books, no fines, and they are never closed for business. If you have books to donate, or are looking for a new read, these are great places to visit to see what’s new. For more information about the Holly Springs Little Free Libraries, or the Holly Springs Rotary Club, contact Natalie Babson at firstname.lastname@example.org.