Negroni Week News

Charity Profile: Little Free Library

May 17, 2017

The birdhouse-like lending libraries that have cropped up in neighborhoods across the globe are a heart-warming sight. Passersby can’t help but to kneel and admire the miniature structures, perusing small yet thoughtful book collections within. The organization behind these lending libraries is Little Free Library, which started in 2009 and grew out of one man’s passion for reading and community.

Founder and executive director Todd Bol, a former public school teacher, built the first LFL, modeled after a one-room schoolhouse, and propped it up in front of his Wisconsin home. “For me, since the founding of it, it’s been about this really primal need for people to touch and connect closely,” says Bol. “We see the better side of humanity coming out day after day.”

Bol’s initial miniature library, a dedication to his book-loving mother, inspired over 50,000 more that span 70 countries including India, Pakistan and Colombia. These tiny book havens rely on the honor system and a take-one-give-one mentality for the millions of books that have exchanged hands. Strangers turn into friends passing books back and forth, and communities are strengthened over shared literary love. “It’s exciting,” says Bol. “I woke up this weekend to see the first LFL open in Bangladesh, and I know we’re hot in Armenia.”

According to the U.S. Department of Education, nearly 61% of low-income families don’t have children’s books in their homes. LFL works to combat that statistic through donations. “Part of that mission is fueled by our Impact Fund, which provides Little Free Libraries at no cost to high-needs communities where they can have an impact on reading motivation,” says program manager Margret Aldrich. “We believe everyone should have access to books, no matter their age, background or income level.”

Aaron Post, owner of the Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Valkyrie, sees hope for the future in literary causes like LFL, which is why Valkyrie is donating to the organization for Negroni Week. “A population that is well-read and well-educated has the potential to solve many of our societal woes,” Post says. “We feel that forces that promote great education need all the help they can get in our current national climate.”

From Minneapolis precincts to “Dr. Who” inspired structures to hollowed out tree stumps, Little Free Libraries have expanded wildly in design from Bol’s initial model, but the core value remains the same. “Our job is to capture the genius within a community, and then reflect those stories so that it can be done in other places,” says Bol.

Moving forward, LFL has turned their attention to their recently launched Action Book Club, a no-cost program that encourages groups to discuss books highlighting social engagement, and then participate in a service project within their community. “We think of it as turning good reads into good deeds!” says Aldrich.

Bol’s original library stand is no longer in his yard; instead it travels with him around the world, spreading the value of community-through-literacy across the globe, reminding us there are neighbors to be found everywhere.

Story by Emma Mannheimer / Photo courtesy of Little Free Library