Big things sometimes come in small packages—like Little Free Libraries. You may have seen some of these birdhouse-resembling structures popping up Montauk daisy-like across the East End. Open them up, however, and you won’t find any measly birdseed. No—you’ll find, instead, the seeds of knowledge—books!
Little Free Library is a Wisconsin-based nonprofit that seeks to remedy the situation that, according to the U.S. Department of Education, up to 61% of low-income families do not have any books for their kids at home. The organization hopes to inspire a love of reading, to build community and spark creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world. As part of their initiative, millions of books change hands via their libraries each year, profoundly increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds.
Hampton Bays Public Library established one of the first Little Free Libraries on the East End when theirs opened almost a year ago, directly in front of the library’s Ponquogue Avenue entrance, fully stocked with books for all ages. “Patrons love our Little Free Library!” Susan LaVista, Director of the Hampton Bays Library, says. Given the success of their first Library, LaVista says she’d like to see more in Hampton Bays—perhaps one at the new Good Ground Park and one at the local beach. She hasn’t yet approached the Town for permission, but plans to do so soon. LaVista also notes that, “While they’re not quite the same as a Little Free Library, we also have two book shelves stocked with free books at a local laundromat and at the local food pantry.”
Over in Southampton, reference librarian Sara Fiore spearheaded Rogers Memorial Library’s Little Free Library near the playground in Agawam Park, which opened early this summer. According to Beth Gates, Head of Reference at the library, community response to their Little Free Library has been tremendous. She says their Little Free Library is refilled weekly with adult, children’s and young adult books, many from the Friends of Rogers Memorial Library Book Sale, all of which are donated. Every time they refill the Library, she said, patrons are busy thumbing through the 15 or so books on hand.
Not to be outdone, the Westhampton Free Library recently opened two of their own Little Free Libraries in the heart of the Village of Westhampton Beach. On Saturday, October 7, they’ll be hosting ribbon cuttings for both. The first will take place at 10:30 a.m. at the Ria Del Bene Memorial Playground (Toddler Park), located behind the Post Stop Café and Chase Bank on Main Street; the second is at 11 a.m. at Glover Park, behind the Chamber of Commerce. According to a press release, reference librarian Stephanie McEvoy brought the idea to the village for approval and also commissioned a local artist, Laurie Yundt-Rothenberg, to decorate the Little Free Libraries.
So how does it work? Simply. One takes a book, then returns it later; or keeps it and adds a different book; or, if you need to, just keep the book. “Although the original premise is to ‘give one and take one’,” LaVista says, “Not everyone does and that’s okay. We just want to get books in the hands of more people.”
Don’t think these three communities get to have all the fun. Word is, Little Free Libraries will be popping up soon in Bridgehampton and Montauk. Eventually, 20 of these invaluable resources will be dotting the Suffolk County landscape.
You already know what to do. Get out there to support these vital community initiatives by giving and taking. It takes a village, after all.
For more information on the Little Free Library program visit littlefreelibrary.org or any of the Little Free Libraries throughout the East End.