On a perfect fall day earlier this month, a group of staff from Little Brothers and Little Free Library buried a post in the ground, secured a painted box on it, and filled it with bilingual children’s books. The little library installed at the Little Brothers office in Corcoran is the first of 20 to be installed in Minneapolis and St. Paul, thanks to a partnership between Little Free Library and AARP called Friends through the Years.
The installation of the library at the Little Brothers office, and the 19 libraries to come, embody the missions of the two organizations. The goal of Little Free Library is to create gathering places “where neighbors share their favorite literature and stories,” as stated on the organization’s website. Like Little Free Library, Little Brothers strives to bring people together. Specifically, Little Brothers connects isolated elders in the Twin Cities to their communities, enabling them to age successfully in their own homes. LuAnne Speeter, Director of Communications and Development stated, “The Library will encourage elders in the Corcoran neighborhood to venture out of their homes, to enjoy books for free, and to share and discuss their reading experience with their neighbors.”
Little Free Libraries are one way community members, and now organizations such as Little Brothers, contribute to strengthening community in their neighborhoods. Last year Kim and Tom Medin installed the first Little Free Library in Corcoran after reading about the man who started the movement and organization. Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin built the first Little Free Library in honor of his mother, a school teacher who loved reading. The organization estimates that by January 2014 more than 10,000 libraries will be registered on their website.
The popularity of Kim and Tom Medin’s library reflects the success of that first Little Free Library in Wisconsin. “The library stays very full,” said Kim. “We live on 34th Street and a lot of people walk past on their way to Corcoran Park. In the summer especially there are a lot of kids, and as they walk past they will take a book or leave a book. I’ve heard kids say, ‘Mom can we stop at the library?’ as they pass.”
Take a book, return a book is the official Little Free Library catch-phrase, encouraging people to re-visit libraries and leave books for others to enjoy. Kim identifies repeat visitors as having had a positive impact on her neighborhood. “Seeing the same people come and go is one positive contribution of the library. It brings people out of their houses,” said Kim. “One couple goes from library to library in the area—the woman is in a wheelchair and her husband pushes her down the street—and they will stop by our library and read for 20 minutes or so. We have a nice terrace nearby where people like to stop and sit. Sometimes we even see cars stop by the library for a book.”
The power of Tom and Kim’s library to draw people out of their houses and cars and out onto the sidewalks or their neighbor’s front lawns is exactly why Little Free Library, AARP, and Little Brothers have partnered together to install more libraries in Minneapolis and St. Paul—the little boxes filled with books have a way of creating and strengthening community.