What if a library was right outside your front porch? What if you could swap a book you enjoyed with neighbors, friends or even strangers? Or perhaps you’ve seen a large, rather odd-looking mailbox outside of a neighbor’s home?
With over 75,000 locations in the United States, and locations in 88 countries internationally, Little Free Library has made a huge impact as a nonprofit organization. Here in the Salt Lake Valley alone, there are over 30 Free Little Libraries.
The late Todd Bol began the Little Free Library movement in 2009, as a tribute to his mother, a teacher who had loved reading her entire life. He built a small model, resembling a one room schoolhouse, right outside his Wisconsin home. In 2012, Bol partnered with his colleague Rick Brooks, who saw the libraries as an opportunity to pursue the common good that they could achieve together.
Over the years, the purpose of these Little Free Book exchanges has become very clear: to share good books and bring communities together. You simply take a book, share a book or both! In 2011, the organization gained media attention, which was followed by a skyrocketing number of new libraries in 2012, along with an official declaration for the group to be recognized as a nonprofit. More recently, in October 2015, Little Free Library was awarded the Library of Congress Literacy Award for promoting reading and literacy in the United States.
The impact of Little Free Libraries is felt by many, including those in Salt Lake City. Some families have added their own spin on the idea and created large mailboxes with food, blankets or hygienic supplies for those in need to take freely. Although, Todd passed away in October of 2018, his vision is embodied by the organization as it continues today. “I really believe in a Little Free Library on every block and a book in every hand. I believe people can fix their neighborhoods, fix their communities, develop systems of sharing, learn from each other, and see that they have a better place on this planet to live.” Todd Bol