The Little Library that Could

The Little Library that Could

Benjamin Naylor Barrett constructed the Little Free Library. Standing with him are Illana’s niece Ava and nephew Nathaniel Larkin (Photograph by Illana Naylor)

Illana Nayor’s children gave her a special Mother’s Day present this year. No, it wasn’t days of pampering at a spa. Nor was it a days-long shopping trip to New York, or candy or flowers or coupons for housework. They didn’t give any of the gifts we associate with the spring holiday.

They gave her a library.

It doesn’t have stone lions out front, and most patrons would have trouble getting in.

This library, part of the Little Free Library project, stands about two feet high and a foot wide with a pitched roof, painted a cheerful yellow and violet. Her son, Benjamin Naylor Barrett, built the library. Illana then stocked it with a variety of books.

Anyone walking or driving by can take a book and leave a book. It’s that simple. There’s no charge or sign out or permission required. “Some people have knocked at my door to ask if they can take a book out,” Naylor said as I talked with her last week. “It’s nice they want to say hello, but they don’t need my permission to borrow one of the books.”

She continued. “Like so many other middle class families, we have accumulated a houseful of stuff. I don’t need more things. I wanted something like the library, and my children met my wish. This little collection of books has become a focal point for the community. Neighbors meet other neighbors .whom they wouldn’t otherwise see. It’s something to watch. I’m so glad we did it.”

Little Free Libraries are springing up all over the country. Their website details the project and includes ordering information for an already built library, kit versions, and plans for those who want to take the do-it-yourself route. In addition, the organization supports various literacy and reading programs. Check it out at http://littlefreelibrary.org/

Illana stood at the curb in front of her house with her hand on her very special Mother’s Day gift. “I hope someone puts up one of these libraries on every block. Just think of the effect it would have on individuals and the community!” And she smiled.

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