Build Your Own Neighborhood Library

Our little library gets some local press:

Build Your Own Neighborhood Library
Spider Lake Little Free Library under construction

Little Free Libraries – mini fridge-sized neighborhood book “houses” neighbors borrow books from and donate books to – are sprouting up around the nation. This summer, the Traverse Area District Library jumped in on the trend, launching and funding the first Little Free Library of its own in the Kids Creek neighborhood.

“Kids Creek was completely enthused by it,” says TADL marketing and communications manager Kristen Talaga. “They have a really supportive community.”

Neighborhood resident Becky Mang volunteered to act as steward for the tiny library – essentially a small, weather-resistant shelter that holds the books, which TADL employee (and carpenter) John Patt built outside her home at the corner of Sixth and Spruce streets. Total cost: about $50.

Since TADL’s Little Free Library pilot project was built in the Kids Creek neighborhood, Talaga says momentum has grown on its own, just as the district library had hoped. “I saw a Spider Lake one pop up, and there’s one on Lincoln,” she says. “And there are a few popping up in Benzie.”

Buoyed by the evident interest, TADL is looking to partner with non-profits and the city of Traverse City to build more Little Free Libraries in more neighborhoods – and perhaps even one at a Traverse City beach.

“Once you have [one], that starts that sense of community. We wanted to do that first one to encourage others, and I think that’s happening,” she says.

Michael Stephens, an assistant professor of library and information science at San Jose State University and a resident of Spider Lake, is one who was inspired by the literary and community aspects of Little Free Library concept. Recently, he and a small group of interested neighbors constructed and funded their own version of a Little Free Library.

The response, he says, was overwhelming. “We had a dedication on the 21st [of July], and we had 36 people come from our little neighborhood – and I don’t think we’ve ever had 36 people gather for anything around here,” he says. “It was a big deal.”

Stephens says the neighborhood’s little library already has sparked a growing sense of community: He sees families spending time enjoying books at a park bench near the book hub, and others starting book discussions centered around materials they picked up at the Spider Lake Little Free Library.

“It’s exactly what I wanted,” he says, “although I didn’t know I wanted that when I started.”

Residents in the Spider Lake community have expanded their efforts, most recently crafting and donating bookmarks to their library and adding more and more book donations to the collection.

Meanwhile, Talaga says she’s working to bring the idea home to her own Oak Park neighborhood.

“We’re trying to see what people have as far as building materials, then we’ll pick a day, come up with a drawing, then get the hammer and nails out. It’s just one of those things where you get your neighbors together and make it happen,” she says.

Want to start a Little Free Library in your neighborhood? Know that no library cards are needed, and borrowers – or lenders – need not be a resident of the neighborhood. But from wherever the borrowers hail, books are borrowed and returned on the honor system. Free plans and building tips are available on the TADL website.