Little Free Libraries: The Badger State’s literary gift to the Gopher State

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Just a few weeks ago, while walking down Lyndale Avenue I saw my very first Little Free Library. Well actually, my first two Little Free Libraries. They were just standing there, in front of the Soo Visual Arts Center, full of books and beautiful. I don’t know why, but I assumed initially that these must be some sort of guerilla tactics by concerned citizens to bring Minneapolis back to the top in the literacy rate stats. After a little research, I discovered I was wrong. The Little Free Library enterprise is well organized, and isn’t even the brainchild of a Minnesotan. Creators Todd Bol and Rick Brooks are from Wisconsin, but lucky for us, they’re keen on sharing.

Last October, when Mary Turck covered the LFL story in the St. Paul notes section of the Twin Cities Daily Planet, she touched on how the handcrafted book cabinets were impacting the local communities by sheer force of the people. Now, some special projects are in the works between the Little Free Library group and Minneapolis presses. Partnering with The Walker Art Shop, each of Minnesota’s big three non-profit publishing houses—Coffee House Press, Graywolf, and Milkweed Editions—will be filling Little Free Libraries with their books, creating ready-made libraries for people to buy and place wherever they are most needed. In Caddis Wood by Mary Rockcastle (Graywolf Press) and The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang (Coffee House Press) are among such titles to be included in these prêt-à-porter literary curio cabinets, which are slated to go on sale at the Walker Shop some time in the coming weeks and are currently for sale on the LFLibrary website.

Chris Fishbach, publisher at Coffee House Press, is spearheading this partnership between LFLibrary and the presses, with the goal of not only boosting publicity for Minnesota’s finest authors and publishing houses, but also for the Little Free Library project itself, returning to the idea that “when we all do better, we all do better.” This idea of bringing Minnesota’s presses together has really impressed co-founder of Little Free Libraries Todd Bol, who in a phone conversation with me gushed over nonprofit publishing houses that, by nature, place “mission over margin.” Bol, a very community and mission-minded man himself (obviously) has some vast and varying plans for the LFLibrary, which are by no means limited to our fair Midwest, and however far his ideas travel, they will now be informed by a glimpse of our own proud literary paradise.