Little Free Libraries Pop Up Around Brunswick County
Little Free Libraries are popping up all over the country, including South Brunswick County.
“What is your career goal?” my high school guidance counselor asked me. “To be a librarian and be surrounded by the written word, to hold books in my hand, to get lost in adventures of faraway places and to feel the stories come through as I turn the pages,” I replied.
Unfortunately, that career goal was not to be, at least not until now, more than 50 years later.
Now I am the librarian of my own Little Free Library. And I’m not alone. I am one of more than 42,000 stewards of this movement to bring curbside literacy to communities just like yours and mine.
In 2009 Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, built a model of a one-room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, who was a teacher and loved to read. He filled the schoolhouse with books, attached it on a post in his front yard and added a sign that said FREE BOOKS. After seeing the positive reaction from neighbors, Bol built 30 more and gave them away, each with the same sign.
Rick Brooks, a community-development educator at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, saw Bol’s project, and the two decided to combine their individual talents to promote literacy and the love of reading by building additional free neighborhood book exchanges. The concept was simple: Take a Book, Leave a Book. The Little Free Library was born.
Their first goal was to build 2,510 Libraries, one more than Andrew Carnegie’s free public libraries. That goal was met in August 2012, when the 2,510th Little Free Library was built.
The idea of giving away little libraries with a wooden sign and an official charter number started to create curiosity. In 2010 Amish carpenter Henry Miller of Cashton, Wisconsin, became the primary craftsman, using 100-year-old reclaimed barn wood. To this day, the practice of using reclaimed materials is encouraged.
Through word-of-mouth marketing, a website and a loyal group of volunteers, they expanded their reach. This expansion centered on the enthusiasm of stewards. Stewards build their own Libraries, install them in front yards, near businesses and in schools and keep them maintained and stocked with books. In 2011 there were nearly 400 Little Free Libraries across the United States.
By 2012 Bol and Brooks knew it was time to become an independent organization; in May of that year Little Free Library was officially established as a Wisconsin nonprofit corporation with a board of directors.
Building My Own
After reading more about this organization and researching the Little Free Library book exchanges in South Brunswick County, I knew I had to build my own. Maybe it wasn’t too late for me to become a librarian. One of the goals of the organization is to use reclaimed materials, so I set out to find what would later become Delilah. I stopped at Three Sisters in Southport and asked Becky if she had anything unique that I could use as my Library. “I have just the piece for you, although it’s pretty unconventional,” she said. A few minutes later, she returned with an antique wooden birdcage, with a steeple that didn’t quite fit, but it had a door and so much character. “It’s perfect!” I said.
With help from my neighbor, we spent the next four days reinforcing and weatherproofing the birdcage. I left the birdcage with its weathered look, but painted the new roof and steeple a light purple. Another neighbor installed the wood post, and once the concrete was set, Delilah had a new home, complete with solar lights to light the way for our neighbors on their evening walks. All I had to do was add the books.
“Time to have a party and ribbon-cutting ceremony,” I said to my sister. We asked friends to stop by for the official ceremony, but they had to bring a book and in exchange I provided some treats. It was a great way to celebrate this new Library, to meet our neighbors and to fill the Library. Every day I look out my window and see new books left by someone.
I was inspired to build my own Little Free Library to honor my sister and in memory of my mother and father. My sister became an avid reader, not in school, but at the age of 43. Twenty-four years and 3,500 books later, she still ends her day absorbed in the pages of a country wedding, a budding romance or a murder-mystery. My father was a writer who could express his innermost thoughts on paper. I remember watching him sit at an oak desk with his Remington typewriter and rewinding the ribbon to get those last few words out of the ink. My mother always encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to do and always supported my efforts. She was also a big fan of the singer Tom Jones, so it only seemed fitting to name my Library Delilah after one of her favorite songs. As far as the purple roof and purple steeple, well, it’s my favorite color. The Library is now open and I’m the librarian, and it looks like I have met my career goal after all.
Libraries, Libraries Everywhere
I was curious to learn of other Little Free Libraries in the South Brunswick area. The Little Free Library website contains a lot of information on the organization and has a map showing the locations of most of the registered Libraries. Over several weeks, I traveled to take a look at these Libraries and talk with the owners, known as stewards. Many Libraries are built in memory of a loved one with varying designs and decorations; no two are alike.
“My father built the Library to honor our mother for Mother’s Day,” said the steward of the Library on Ocean Isle Beach. “Growing up she would take my brother and me to summer reading programs at our local library. ‘If you have a book, you’re never alone,’ she would tell us. These days she enjoys walking out to her Library and reading notes left in her guest book.”
The Little Free Library located in Keziah Park in downtown Southport was built in memory of Marjorie Josephine Wheat, who was an avid reader and long-time visitor to the Harper Library. Its location makes it one of the busiest Libraries to grab a book before heading to the park or the waterfront.
The Oak Island Parks and Recreation facility is home to a Library built in memory of Ruth J. Goss. There is also a Library at 19th Place East on Oak Island, built in memory of William M. Simpson, “Old Pop Pop.”
Muse Park in Boiling Spring Lakes is the location of a bright yellow and red polka-dot Library built by a Special Education Class of South Brunswick High School, which partnered with a student for a senior project.
The Library on Sunset Beach has a beachy theme, complete with decorative shells, sand dollars and sea glass and even a piece of driftwood for the door handle. The steward told me she had a complete turn-around of books the first week the Library was open.
“A grandmother stopped by with her grandson who wanted a book, but he didn’t have one to leave,” she told me. “That’s okay, you can take a book,” she told the little boy. “Thanks, I’ll bring you back a dollar,” he whispered in her ear. She just smiled as he walked away, hand-in-hand with his grandmother.
Some Southport businesses have also gotten on the bandwagon of supporting the community through this book exchange. Jill Peleuses and the staff of Wild Bird and Garden built their Library with a nature theme, complete with a metal woodpecker on the side who welcomes you as you check out their selection of bird books.
Francesca Clemmons of Barn and Beach Designs on Long Beach Road has installed one of the newest Libraries in our area, and she calls it Lulu. Her Library is built from what was once a terrarium and now has cedar shakes with a recycled lumber post. It’s a great location to stop by and pick up your beach reads before heading over the bridge to Oak Island.
The Little Free Library nonprofit organization has been honored by the Library of Congress, the National Book Foundation and the American Library Association, and Reader’s Digest named the organization as one of the “50 Surprising Things We Love about America.”
As of August 2016, there were more than 42,000 Little Free Library book exchanges around the world. They are represented in all 50 states and more than 70 countries. Each year, nearly 10 million books are shared in Little Free Libraries. The organization aims to deepen its current impact by growing to 100,000 Libraries worldwide by the end of 2017. Little Free Library is the registered trademark of the Little Free Library organization. The official Little Free Library motto is “Take a Book, Return a Book.” To learn more, visit littlefreelibrary.org.
Little Free Libraries in South Brunswick County
#1010 – Keziah Park, Moore and Lord streets, Southport
#1643 – 17 Union Street, Ocean Isle Beach
#3051 – 3003 E. Oak Island Drive, Oak Island
#4062 – Muse Park, E. Boiling Spring Road and Miller Road, Boiling Spring Lakes
#4582 – 19th Place East and E. Pelican Road, Oak Island
#21931 – 400 40th Street, Sunset Beach
#41796 – Delilah, 4314 Frying Pan Road SE, Southport
#41816 – 4561 Long Beach Road, Southport
#42950 – 105 E. Brown Street, Southport