Back in February, Karin read an article in Parade magazine about a growing phenomenon called the Little Free Library. Started in 2009 in Wisconsin, the movement gives individuals the chance to become amateur librarians by installing small boxes — usually on their own property — filled with books. Visitors to the tiny libraries are encouraged to bring a book to exchange. Karin was fascinated with the idea.
“I turned to my husband and said, ‘If you can build this thing, I’ll paint it,’” she said.
What started out as a simple, quick project turned into several months of work (“The challenge,” John said, “was to figure out if we could seal it properly for when it rains. We’re still waiting to see if it worked.”). Now, however, the miniature library is up and functional, standing proudly in a flowerbed in front of the Donaldson’s home on Calle Candela.
The Donaldsons initially stocked the library with their own books that they were finished reading. Karin then made up fliers advertising the spot and delivered them to each of her neighbors’ mailboxes. Interest — and books — started to roll in.
“We’ve received more books than have been taken at this point,” John said.
Response from neighbors, meanwhile, has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I’ve received thank you notes and people seem to enjoy it,” Karin said. “It’s just fun.”
Karin said the impetus for getting involved in the Little Free Library movement had a lot to do with the changing demographics of their neighborhood. When the Donaldsons moved to the area in 1974, she said, most of the residents were families with young children, and block parties and barbeques were a regular occurrence. As the population started to age, however, those things became less frequent.
Now, she said, younger families are starting to pop up again, and she wanted something to offer the neighborhood’s children. Their own grandchildren, she said, “make a beeline for the library whenever they come to visit.” She makes sure to keep a wide variety of reading material in the library, and she regularly goes through the selection, culling books that don’t seem to be getting much interest.
Recently, the Donaldson’s library received a certificate of distinction from the Little Free Library organization, which cited the library’s “unique design and creativity.” For the honor, the library is featured on the organization’s Pinterest page, pinterest.com/ltlfreelibrary, under the category “Libraries of Distinction.”
Karin said one of the best parts of the venture has been going out to the library every day to check what has been left. The library provides a glimpse into its visitors — almost like an anonymous neighborly calling card.
The books, meanwhile, aren’t the only perks. The library has provided an added social scene to the Donaldson’s cul-de-sac.
“I’ve met neighbors I never knew we had,” Karin said. “I just really get a kick out of it.”
The Donaldson’s Little Free Library is located at 1683 Calle Candela. For more information on the Little Free Library program, visit littlefreelibrary.org.