Our electronic devices are progressively becoming semi-permanent appendages on ourselves as we rely on them more. Almost every necessity and luxury can be purchased from the comfort and convenience of home.
Somethings are just better in person, though.
There’s a little movement occurring around the globe that relies on old-fashioned principles of trust, community and literacy. And the movement has arrived in Menomonee Falls. However, you won’t be able to enjoy this one from home.
St. Francis Episcopal Church is home to Falls’ first “Little Free Library” — at least it’s the first one identified in the village. There are about 600 of these little libraries registered around the world, but insiders estimate that well over 3,000 unregistered libraries are in existence.
A Free Little Library?
The Little Free Library is basically a small set of books displayed in a birdhouse-sized box, which set out on a property. Anyone can come along and grab a book that interests them, and also replace the book with another. Anyone can use them, and readers are encouraged to put their name in the book or pass on a note to the next reader.
It' all part of a global initiative started by two Wisconsin natives. The purpose is to nurture neighborhoods through literacy, but also bring communities together at these mico-sized gathering places.
“We have found that as soon as they put up their library all their neighbors came,” said Megan Hansen, a development specialist with the Little Library organization. "It's just word of mouth once people see one."
Word of mouth certianly does travel. There are little libraries in 45 states, and numerous other countries.
The free book exchange was the brainchild of Hudson, WI, native Todd Bol, who came up with it as a way to honor his late mother, a teacher who loved to read. He teamed up with Madison community outreach expert Rick Brooks, and the idea grew from there.
More Than Just Books
The concept of the free book exchange is simple. However, the purpose of the Free Little Free Library is much deeper.
“One of Todd and Rick’s favorite causes to champion books and literacy,” Hansen said. “But they’re also about community interaction. We can provide a way for people to do that.”
Take the first little library in Falls, for example. St. Francis parishioner Andy Itsoff laid a stone path, installed a bench, and erected a small sign at their Little Free Library. It resides beneath the tallest pine on the property of the church. It’s now the entire neighborhood’s miniature rest-a-bit spot.
“I foresee someone coming through at 6:30 a.m. with a coffee in their hand, sitting under a beautiful tree, and reading a book or their paper,” said St. Francis parishioner Ron Johnson. “We want to bring everybody in to enjoy of what we have here in Menomonee Falls.”
Johnson said several people have already stopped out to exchange a book. Passers-by soon find themselves locked into a conversation about the book they’re reading, the weather, or anything else. The quaint bench and sign are enough to spark a conversation with intrigued walkers.
'We Hope It Catches On'
It’s that connection with community and the outdoors that gives the Little Free Library an advantage that electronic devices just can’t touch. It’s a concept that relies on trust as well. A well-stocked Little Free Library is a sure sign that a community can share, engage, and trust one another.
“This is for the entire neighborhood. It’s a great idea and we hope it catches on further in Menomonee Falls,” Johnson said.
It already is.
After parking lot repairs are completed at Old Falls Village, the historical society plans to erect its own Little Free Library on the space. For all we know, there could be several others in the village that aren’t tracked. Let Patch know if you have opened your own Free Little Library.