The Little Free Libraries
article by Maré Brennan
A grassroots movement is afoot to spread literacy one Little Free Library at a time. The concept behind these little lending libraries is simple. “Take a book. Leave a book.” Small in stature but mighty by their contents, Little Free Libraries can be found throughout the country and even in our neck of the woods. You can find two in Ruston and three in West Monroe’s Kiroli Park. Most recently a Little Free Library popped up beside the river levee on Island Drive in Monroe. BayouLife recently caught up with Dee Cagle, Grace Episcopal School’s library, a lover of books and proud erector of Monroe’s first Little Free Library.
Q. How did you you learn about Little Free Libraries and why did you choose to add one in your neighborhood?
A. I learned about them from an article in the Baton Rouge social magazine In Register. I fell in love with the idea of people sharing books in a neighborhood/community. I knew we had the perfect location for a Little Free Library since we have lots of foot and bicycle traffic on our street. I also knew I wanted ours to be geared for children of all ages. It drives me crazy when my boys announce we don’t have anything good to read at our house, especially since we have books everywhere! And the usually announced the need for a book when we’re in for the night.
Q. Many Little Free Libraries employ creative designs and yours is no exception. How did you decide on the style?
A. My husband, Father and I were in the process of designing our LFL. We looked at several pictures and loved spotting them on road trips. I knew I wanted a rustic look with aged wood from my family’s barn and recycled tin. I also wanted it to be user friendly for children, not too tall, not a glass door but one with a clear view of the books, easy to open and shut and dividers as shelves for different size books. My dad was helping us with the dimensions and was going to have a friend build it for us, but sadly our time ran out. My sweet husband and a dear friend, Noah Reeves, took over the designing and building. They found the wood and tin along the Mississippi River bank and got to work. They completely surprised me. It is one of the dearest gifts I have ever received.
Q. What drew you to create a Little Free Library for Monroe?
A. The main idea behind The Little Free Library is to promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide and to build a sense of community as we share skill, creativity and wisdom across generations.
Q. Any new children’s books or series of books you’d like to recommend as we head back to school?
A. I love a series and love when children do, too! Here are some great new series out for children: Sophie Mouse by Poppy Green and Here’s Hank by Henry Winkler are for early chapter book readers. Heidi Heckelbeck by Debra Coven is for 2nd to 4th graders. Derek Jeter’s Hit and Miss new collection is great for upper elementary – middle school ages. The Testing Trilogy by Joelle Charbonneau is great for middle to high school students. The Who Was and the What Is collection of non-fiction/biographies is for students of all ages.
Dee’s Top 5 Must Reads for Children:
(“So hard to pick just 5!”)
1. The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
2. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
3. Owl Babies by Martin Waddell
4. The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson
5. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
To learn more about Little Free Libraries, where you can find one in cities near or far, and how you, too, can be part of the movement to instill a love of reading, go to littlefreelibrary.org. The website features an interactive map showing Little Free Library locations, instructions on how to become part of the non-profit’s network of book sharers and much more.