Shrines in the Hood

I don’t know why I log onto news some mornings. A woman in Arizona ran over her husband with a car because he had not voted in the presidential election. An elderly man in New Zealand is under court orders to keep 550 yards from the visiting Prince Charles and Camilla. Apparently in 1994 he sprayed Prince Charles with air fresheners “to remove the stink of royalty.” This time what he had in mind was more like horse manure. And back in this country, the CIA/FBI/Pentagon sex & email scandal implodes like a house of cards in high school.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going for a walk.

Just a few steps from home, I found it: a little civility. It looked, at first glance, like a birdhouse. Little Free Libraries, standing on posts alongside sidewalks in residential neighborhoods. Each hutch hosts a remarkably full, ever-changing variety of books, protected from the weather.

Little Free Libraries is the brainchild of a couple of men from Wisconsin, Rick Brooks and Todd Bol. When Bol’s mother, a school teacher, died, he built a memorial for her in his front yard. Shaped like a little red schoolhouse, it offered free books to passersby. People loved the idea and hired him to make more. When he met up with Brooks, an outreach program manager at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a social enterprise was launched.

Today Little Free Libraries have popped up in over forty states and are going international–more than 40 in Ghana alone. And I’m lucky enough to have one on my walk to town. I regard it as a shrine. Today I lent a book of poetry and borrowed Willa Cather’s O Pioneer!

Using no start-up capital, Todd Bol and Rick Brooks founded a chain of micro lending libraries that help build community, much like bookgroups. Donations and volunteerism keep it all going. “(Neighbors) would tell me they had met more people than in the last 10 years, 20 years, 30 years,” noted Bol. Brooks concurs, “This is obviously about more than just books. Something is going on.”

Something is going on. Some people are thinking of ways to make the world a better place. And the more we all read, the better behaved we all are, and the more we stay out of trouble. It’s a start anyway.

Visit their site,


Filed under free books

7 responses to “Shrines in the Hood

  1. sophiewitman

    lovely. i want one in our neighborhood – it would be just perfect.

  2. Martin

    What a great tradition-Thanks for sharing this.I have heard of these somewhere -little book venues free and right next to a mailbox -great out of the box thinking-and I always try to look at the bright side-Obama was elected and the powerful corporations have been clipped a bit-big oil,big finance these huge interests have been at least met in opposition-we have to work out what’s fair-these interests want to go back to the guilded age.Although,Kim I applaud-thumbing our noses at the royals-isn’t it funny The tea party uses OUR flag-“the don’t tread on me ” flag as their symbol-yet it is monarchy and corporate monarchy that should be resisted.That’s really a democratic flag-not distinctly teaparty republican ?…………….

  3. definately build one, MJ.
    i’ve seen your skill in woodworking!
    all the info will be here:

  4. Love this! I may have to look into hosting a LFL in my neighborhood.

  5. “Shrines in the Hood | a little elbow room” was in fact a truly good
    posting, . I hope you keep publishing and I am going to continue reading!
    Many thanks ,Samual

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