We Roanokers are lucky to have so many public libraries. But did you know we also have numerous “little” libraries?
Ten years ago, Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, built a model one-room schoolhouse as a tribute to his Mother, a teacher. He put it on a post in his front yard, filled it with books and attached a sign, “Free Books!” Neighbors flocked to his Little Free Library, often leaving their own book or two, and an international movement was born.
Today, with the goals of spreading a love of reading and building community, there are over 80,000 registered Little Free Libraries in more than 90 countries worldwide. Roanoke has at least sixteen, including those installed by individuals in their front yards, by fourth graders at Oak Grove Elementary School, by the Regional Center for Animal Care and Protection, and by a homeschooling family of four.
In 2016, The Roanoke Arts Commission hired artist and teacher Dan Kuehl to design six LFLs from newspaper boxes donated by the Roanoke Times. These brightly colored, patterned structures reside in various areas of the city and are monitored and stocked by volunteers. The Roanoke Public Library and individuals provide the books. If you’d like to donate used books, please contact Susan Jennings, firstname.lastname@example.org. (No textbooks, encyclopedias, dictionaries, please.)
There are many miniature libraries in the Valley not registered with the Little Free Library organization but which serve the same purpose. Rotary Club of Roanoke Valley has built and stocked several little libraries and placed them at school and church locations.
If you would like ideas for building your own LFL or for buying one, go to littlefreelibrary.org. Meanwhile, take a book or leave a book from a little library near you. You’ll stumble across some others out there, but here’s a Roanoke Little Free Library Map to point you to many that we know about. ★
BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke contributor Lucy Lee is a Roanoke resident and a lover of books and art. As a member of the Roanoke Arts Commission, she led the charge in getting the City’s Little Free Libraries in place. For six years she helped to guide the region’s successful community read—Roanoke Valley Reads. Currently in her reading stack you’ll find The Overstory, Circe, and In My Mind’s Eye.