One for the Books

February 2019
Written By: 
Julie Flanagan

Little Free Libraries promote reading and community

(Above right) Barbara and Ed Streeter and Nancy Anderson pose with Create Conway’s first Little Free Library, approved and ready for painting.

Children who grow up in homes without books are, on average, three years behind those who grow up in homes with lots of books, even when controlling for other factors. Many times this isn’t by choice. More than 60 percent of low-income families don’t have any age-appropriate books for their kids at home. Enter the Little Free Library.

Back in 2009, the very first Little Free Library was started by Todd H. Bol. He wanted to share books with his neighbors in Hudson, Wisconsin, and the response was so overwhelming that he crafted a vision for a community-led grassroots movement to bring Little Free Libraries to people all across the world. Bol passed away in October 2018 due to complications from pancreatic cancer, but his legacy lives on in more than 75,000 Little Free Libraries in all 50 states, plus 88 countries. These libraries provide 24/7 access to books and encourage a love of reading in both children and adults.

The very first Library was designed to look like a one-room schoolhouse, but the structures soon took on a wide variety of sizes, shapes and themes. Despite their unique appearances the simple principle is the same: take a book, share a book. Through the Libraries, millions of books are exchanged each year between readers of all ages and backgrounds. The structures can be in yards, gardens, parks or other accessible locations, like in coffee shops or near restaurants or community centers. To be called a Little Free Library, a free book exchange must be registered with an official charter sign and number, which can be done via the Little Free Library’s website.

Here on the Grand Strand, Create Conway recently started an initiative to bring Little Free Libraries to their area. The first opened in early 2018 and several more of the eight planned Libraries are now operational, with the fourth opening in December on Talon Drive. Each of the boxes are painted by local artists and some feature book designs, like Craig Smith’s Charlotte’s Web inspired box and Rachel Jones’ Alice in Wonderland box. Create Conway’s mission is “to build an artistically vibrant community by supporting regional artists and promoting public participation in the arts.” The Little Free Libraries are a perfect fit.

There are also two Little Free Libraries in Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, respectively. The Ninth Avenue North location is sponsored by children’s author Sherry Baldwin, who welcomes guests by telling them to “feel free to enjoy the library by adding to it, or choosing a book to take with you. ” Susan Collins wanted to start a Little Free Library when she moved to Myrtle Beach. When her HOA wouldn’t allow it, two were built at a local dance studio. “One library is for children, the other for adults,” explains Collins. “It was well received by all.”

And the impacts speak for themselves. According the Little Free Library’s website, three out of four people report they’ve read a book they normally wouldn’t have, 73 percent said they’ve met more neighbors because of the Libraries, and 92 percent say their neighborhood feels like a friendlier place. Visit littlefreelibrary.org for more information and an interactive map of locations.

Little Free Library locations



Conway:

- 1821 Racepath Ave.
- 1119 Naomi Ave.
- 708 12th Ave.
- 172 Talon Drive

Four more planned, visit createconway.org for updated info

Myrtle Beach:

4211 Carolina Exchange Drive
5610 Woodside Ave.

North Myrtle Beach:

Beach accesses at Third Avenue North and Ninth Avenue North

Resources: 

PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF CREATE CONWAY