Don’t confuse community-building “little free libraries” for bird McMansions

Don’t make the mistake of confusing a “little free library” with an oversized birdhouse in your neighbor’s front lawn:

Zooming by in your car, you might mistake them for bird McMansions…

Based on a map on the Little Free Library website and chatter among local “stewards” — people who erect the boxes and maintain them — we’d say the Kansas City area has at least 20 little libraries so far, typically about the size of a recycling bin.

The idea germinated in a small Wisconsin town in 2009, when Todd Bol built a diminutive one-room schoolhouse out of an old garage door as a tribute to his late mom, a teacher. He stocked it with books and put it on a post outside…

“This is just a way to build community, and people can put in books that they love or just want to get rid of,” says Theiss, who’s an actual librarian. She works at Rockhurst University.

Several things are interesting here:

1. People with these libraries still believe in the power of books. How many people in the U.S. would agree?

2. From this article, it sounds like many of these small libraries are in fairly well-off suburban-type neighborhoods. The irony is that such neighborhoods are supposed to have community but need these small book outposts to bring community.

3. While these small libraries may have benefits, does this suggest people don’t want to spend the time to travel to the library? Perhaps this is more about convenience than community?

I’ll be curious to see if this is just a fad or something longer lasting.

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