Turning the page on a storied neighborhood in Point Loma with Little Free Libraries
Jessica Wilkinson reads a book from her Little Free Library on Browning Street in Point Loma. / Photo by Thomas Melville
On Monday afternoon, Jessica Wilkinson arrived home and found a pair of sandals. A few days before that, there was a bag of chips. Two weeks ago, she found a jacket draped over her bench, which is nestled in between the sidewalk and a short retaining wall in front of her home on Browning Street.
“I guess people sit down, start reading and forget things – like their shoes,” Wilkinson said with a smile.
It's not as odd as it sounds when you consider that next to her comfy wooden bench is a colorful box of books – a Little Free Library – which encourages everyone in the neighborhood to take a good read and share a better story.
“It's been a real blessing for our street, our neighborhood,” said Wilkinson, who opened her LFL six months ago. “It brings neighbors together; it's a conversation starter.”
Little Free Library is a movement started by Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisc., and Rick Brooks of Madison, Wisc., in 2010, and has grown to include little libraries in most states and dozens of countries. As of January, there were more than 25,000 of the mini-libraries worldwide, with thousands more being built.
Little Free Library’s mission is to:
- Promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide.
- Foster a sense of community and connection as neighbors share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.
For the van den Helders on Santa Barbara Drive, installing a Little Free Library on the Moana Drive side of their home quickly became a way to connect and reconnect with their community.
“I have had conversations with neighbors I haven't seen for years,” said Wendy van den Helder, who has lived in Point Loma for 13 years and opened her LFL about a month ago. “I've also met people who will stop on their walk and take photos of the library and then start asking questions about it. I think it may need its own Instagram account soon.”
Little Free Libraries are sprouting up all over the Peninsula. At last count there were seven, but that number may grow as the LFL on Tivoli Street also includes a seed exchange. “I think that means we have a well-read neighborhood,” van den Helder said.
The van den Helders' library is stocked mostly with novels with some non-fiction, occasionally a cookbook, and at one time a DVD. Their offerings are geared more toward adults.
Over the hill and closer to Loma Portal Elementary, Wilkinson's library is usually stocked with children's books or young adult fiction. Her LFL has a bright red, blue, green and yellow color scheme with flowers painted on the sides and the lyrics to the song “You Are My Sunshine” on the back. “I love that song and sing it to my two young children all the time,” she said.
When Wilkinson moved to Point Loma three years ago, she grew tired of going back and forth to the public library in an effort to keep up with her daughter's prolific reading habit. She thought about starting a book trading program, but when she learned of the Little Free Library program, it seemed like a perfect fit.
“I like that it's bringing people back to books and keeping reading alive,” Wilkinson said. “People will put their phones away and read a book, remember how it makes them feel, and pass that appreciation on to their children.”
Now, if they could just remember to take their shoes.
Here's how to create your Little Free Library
First decide where you can legally and safely install the Little Free Library. The location should also have a lot of foot traffic and be highly visible to anyone nearby. Then identify at least one person to be the steward; this person regularly checks the library to be sure it is stocked, clean and inviting. They also promotes the library on an ongoing basis.
You can build your own library, find someone locally to build one for you, or purchase a library through the Little Free Library online catalog. You can also apply to receive a sponsored GIFT Fund Library.
Once you have installed your library, be sure to hold a grand opening ceremony and invite your friends and neighbors to kick off the library in style. Have a ribbon cutting, provide snacks and exchange books. Take lots of photos and register on the World Map so that anyone can easily find your library.
For more information, visit littlefreelibrary.org.