The love of reading and the desire for more good neighborliness came together last Saturday when another small free library opened in Provo.
The recognizable library box opened at 1477 N. 1930 West in the Grandview neighborhood north of Provo. The library steward is Mary Hedengren, who lives in the house where the library box is.
To celebrate the event, there was a ribbon cutting, speeches by Ward Representative Richard Jaussi and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Area Stake President Travis Blackwelder. They talked about the importance of reading and having something that brings neighbors together.
There was a party after the ribbon cutting with free snow cones and popcorn. The kids also had a bouncy house to play with.
Excitement over the opening of the small free library has led many locals to bring books to share.
“There were so many books that we had an ‘annex’ box for extra donations that didn’t fit in the box that we can add later,” Hedengren said. “A lot of people left with a book in hand to take home and enjoy.”
There are approximately 50 Little Free Library boxes in Utah County. Each box is open 24 hours a day and is based on a system of trust consisting in returning the books at the end of the reading and exchanging them for others so that the children can read several of them. Donations of children’s books are always welcome, Hedengren added.
The nonprofit Little Free Library started in St. Paul, Minnesota, and now has community libraries in more than 110 countries, with more than 70 million books shared, according to the foundation’s website.
The non-profit organization’s mission is to be a catalyst to build community, inspire readers, and expand access to books for all through a global network of small, free, volunteer-run libraries.
The vision of the organization is to be present in every community and to have a book for every reader.
According to the association website The story began in 2009, when “Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin built a model one-room schoolhouse. It was a tribute to his mother; she was a teacher who loved to read. He filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard. His neighbors and friends loved it, so he built several more and gave them away.
“Rick Brooks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (retired from Little Free Library 2014) saw Bol’s DIY project while they were discussing potential social enterprises. Together, the two saw opportunities to achieve a variety of goals for the common good,” the story continues.
Bol and Brooks were inspired by community gift-sharing networks, “take a book, leave a book” collections in cafes and public spaces, and most notably by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
At the turn of the 20th century, Carnegie set itself the goal of funding the creation of 2,508 free public libraries in the English-speaking world. Provo was the recipient of one of Carnegie’s famous libraries, the first being built in Dunfermline, Scotland, Carnegie’s childhood home. The Provo Building is located at the corner of Center Street and 100 East.
By the end of 2012, there were over 4,000 small free libraries. By 2016, more than 50,000 small free libraries had been installed in all 50 US states and 70 countries.
“On October 18, 2018, Bol died of complications from pancreatic cancer, shortly after the organization celebrated the 75,000th Little Free Library. He remained dedicated to the mission of Little Free Library in his final days. , saying, “I truly believe in a little free library on every block and a book in every hand. I believe people can fix their neighborhoods, fix their communities, develop sharing systems, learn from each other, and see that they have a better place on this planet to live,” the website reports.
This feeling seems to hold true. According to recent data from the nonprofit, 72% of people say their neighborhood feels like a friendlier place because of a small, free library.
The Little Free Libraries initiative reached its 10th anniversary in 2019, and 2020 has seen over 100,000 Little Free Library book sharing boxes installed worldwide.