Our Little Free Library Gets a Makeover

Little Free Library original

Little Free Library, January, 2014

When I spotted a Little Free Library in nearby Campbell in 2013, it was love at first site. The idea of my own Little Free Library held great appeal. It took awhile to bring it all together, but in January of 2014 our curbside Little Free Library or LFL made its debut. We dedicated the library in May that year and it’s seen a steady stream of visitors ever since.

My friend Nick Timmerman built the library using reclaimed materials. It’s held up well, but last year it started to leak. I had to cover the library with  recycled packing material to keep it operational during our wet winter.

Little Free Library March 2017

Little Free Library under cover

Now the library is undergoing a facelift.  I wanted something fun and whimsical, so I reached out to my friend Donna Pierre. Donna is a talented fine artist and a muralist. It’s a treat to see the details unfold. I’m excited to share the finished library soon. Meanwhile, here are a few pics of the process:

Little Free Library Primed for painting

Primed, painted and sealed

Donna Pierre painting the Little Free Library

Donna Pierre: taping off lines for the log cabin detail

Little Free Library Log Cabin Detail

The log cabin effect

Little Free Library Log Cabin Detail

Back of the library

It’s been unseasonably hot these past few days, after a week of unseasonably cold weather. You never know these days which end is up. Once the weather improves, Donna will be back. I’m so excited.

As you can see from the last photo, my sweet pea jungle is wilting from the heat. I knew it was inevitable, but I’ll be sorry to see them go. The Nigella (love-in-a-mist) are filling in some of the vacated spots, and the cornflowers are hanging in there too. The bees love the Nigella and I love the bees so three cheers for synchronicity.

spring flower bouquet

Flowers for Kathee

My sister stops by every Sunday to pick up a small bouquet for her friend, Kathee who is on hospice.  This past weekend I added three miniature yellow roses to the small bouquet. It’s been nice to bring a bit of color to her day.

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The Greening of the Little Free Library

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

We’re celebrating by featuring green-covered books, bookmarks and a few small craft kits in our Little Free Library.

…and a pot of gold at the end of the fairy garden rainbow.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig

Shamrocks in the Fairy Garden, Green Books in the Library

St. Patrick’s Day brings out my inner child. We loved wearing green to school when we were kids and apparently I’ve never outgrown the tradition. Green is my favorite color, so finding the right thing to wear is easy-breezy.

I’m also having fun making Leprechaun mischief in the fairy garden. It’s hard to resist.

Fairy garden house under a net

Those mischievous Leprechauns have tossed a net over the fairy house

fairy garden pot of gold

A pot of gold. Is there a rainbow nearby?

fairy garden fairies on St. Patrick's day

Charming fairies enjoy the shade. They were a gift from my friend Kristi.

fairy garden st. patrick's day

Succulents tend to like dry conditions, but they sure look green after the rain.

Since joining a Facebook group for Little Free Library stewards, I’ve found myself reinvigorated. Stewards in the group have wonderful ideas, among them setting up themes for their library.

I stocked the library with red-colored books for Valentine’s Day, and offered pink and red bookmarks and stickers.

valentine's day litttle free library collage

Last week we celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday, which was a huge hit. When I returned from our weekend away, all but one book found its way into a pair of small hands. One of my neighbors stopped by to tell me that his granddaughter was jumping up and down with excitement over one of the Seuss books. That made my day.

LFL Dr. Seuss

Celebrating Dr. Seuss, born March 2nd

If you don’t know about the Little Free Library movement you can read about it on their site. We opened our LFL two years ago. It continues to receive a warm welcome from the community

This week, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day and approaching s*p*r*i*n*g, all the books are green, or green themed. books about gardening, fairy gardening, herb gardening…you get the picture. Once again, stickers and green bookmarks to entice small ones to the library. It’s such good fun.

Little Free Library st. Patrick's day

Little Free Library decked out in green

I’ve been a reader my whole life. As girls we loved our trips to the local library. I came home with the maximum books allowed, devoured all of them, then headed back for more. Having a library card felt special. When my boys came along, reading was a big part of our day. Having this LFL at the curb is a great way to build community around reading and a source of daily joy.

What do you know?

The Little Free Library mission is to:

promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide and build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.

The original goal: To build 2,510 Little Free Libraries—as many as Andrew Carnegie—and keep going.

As of January 2016, there are over 36,000 registered Little Free Library book exchanges in all 50 U.S. states and over 70 countries around the world.

Little Free Library: Take a Book, Return a Book

The Making of The Miniature Little Free Library

mac approved mini little free library

Photo shoot in the fairy garden before mailing the LFL

This is a follow on post to It’s the Little Things (Even Libraries) published last week. You can catch up with part one here.

It took me years to realize that everyone creates differently. I admire designers that can sketch an idea, and then make it come to life. I tend to work in reverse. Ideas rattle around in my head where they’re examined and discarded. These ideas simmer in my brain before a usable plan comes together.

My first fairy garden miniature library started with a small box. I thought I would do the same with this one, but none of the boxes in my stash seemed right. I visited a craft store, put a couple of items in my cart, then put them all back. Eventually I left the store with a small container of blue paint and a receipt for seventy-five cents.

Back home, using a photo of Carrie’s library as a guide, I cut pieces from a thin piece of cardboard. I wanted the library to have a working door, so I cut a small rectangle in the body of the library. I cut a cardboard frame for the door, and backed it with clear packaging from a packet of batteries.

Carries library with miniature

Carrie’s full-sized library on the left, the miniature version on the right

mini little free library construction

Constructing the miniature library

It took three coats of paint to cover the glossy white cardboard, but after two days the color looked even.

If I had it to do over again, I would install the door first, and then assemble the library. It would have been handy to have fairy-sized hands that day. I persevered.

After taping the plastic to the door, I glued a tiny hinge in place. On the library itself, I poked two small holes into the opening, then used tiny brads to hold the hinge in place.

mini little free library door hardware

Door hardware

On the opposite side of the door I attached a “doodad” from my stash, holding that in place with another brad. This allows the door to open and close.

mini little free library open door

Miniature LFL with a working door

Since the opening is small, I made a removable roof so adding books is a breeze.

Carrie’s library sits on a wooden post surrounded by a circle of stones. To replicate the look, I used a cinnamon stick, a small metal lid and a handful of pebbles from my fairy garden stash. I hot-glued the cinnamon stick to the inside of the lid, and then glued rocks into and around it. This gives it weight and stability. I downloaded a copy of Carrie’s library, and photo-copy reduced the two signs to scale. Then I headed to the kitchen, tore off a corner of a box of cat food cans, and used the cardboard to mount the signs.

mini little free library take a book sign

Miniature library stand made from a cinnamon stick, a candle lid, pebbles and hot glue

Then on to the books. Again, lots of ideas tried and discarded before I came up with a plan. I used the binding from a couple of paper sample books passed on to me years ago. I cut through all the layers of the sample booklets, and then cut sections down to size.

mini little free library book making supplies

Sourcing supplies for the miniature books. Upper left, clockwise: sample books used for structure, book covers made from a recycled Humane Society calendar, one of my dad’s vintage stamps, floral Washi tape, Graphic 45 printed paper

Each tiny book has a unique cover with a small story to go with it. (The actual books are blank inside, so you have to use your imagination.)

I wrote a six-word story to go with each book, something meaningful to me or to Carrie. Here they are:

Trust, betrayed. Rescued dog’s love, restored.

Flowers. Achingly beautiful. Harbingers of spring.

Magic. How we see the world.

Wanted child. Your new family awaits.

The Wonderland of Alys in miniature.**

Daddy’s stamps lovingly travel the world.

Dragon Folklore. Escape inside a book.

mini little free library collage

Can you match the books with the six-word stories?

**The Wonderland of Alys is a collage art piece by Pauline King, a friend and fellow blogger. The original hangs in our home. The tiny replica of this piece is a sticker, sent to me at Christmas by Julia of Defeat Despair. I couldn’t resist turning one of those art stickers in to a tiny, make-believe book.

Pauline King art the wonderland of alys

It’s The Little Things (Even Libraries)

I’ll start at the beginning.

A few years back I spotted a small, neighborhood library in the nearby community of Campbell. I was smitten! I went back to drop off books, then returned again with my husband. After seeing the library and doing some research, I knew I wanted one too.

little free library campbell, california

Little Free Library, Campbell, California Steward: Carmencita Valerio

In keeping with the tenets of the Little Free Library movement, we started looking for recycled materials. We spotted something that would work at a garage sale, but we mulled it over for too long and it was gone.

Enter my friend Nick, who’s a master carpenter extraordinaire. Nick built our Little Free Library (LFL) from reclaimed redwood fencing and deck material. Perfection.

little free library history collage

Little Free Library Construction and Design: Nick Timmermann Steward: Alys Milner

The books flow in, the books flow out, and an entire community of readers stop by daily to give or take a book. The motto is “Take a book, return a book” with the understanding that you can do either. I’m considered the library steward, but the library belongs to the community.

About six months later my friend Mary Elizabeth asked, perhaps tongue in cheek, “When are you going to build a Little Free Library for your fairy garden?”

miniature little free library

Miniature Little Free Library in the Fairy Garden

How could I resist that challenge? So I did, and of course I blogged about it here.

Fast forward to last November. I received one of those WordPress notifications saying that my (Little)Little Free Library post had a spike in views. Someone shared my post on the official Little Free Library Facebook Page and that’s how I met Carrie Marie.

Carrie is a library steward in Winston-Salem, Massachusetts.  When she saw the Facebook post, she asked if “the artist”…referring to me (blush) would make one. Delighted, I offered to make one as a gift after I recovered from surgery.

Here’s what she said:

Hi Alys,
I would be happy to pay for supplies needed to make us a tiny LFL! My husband and I are in the process of adopting through foster care here in NC and we have Little Free Library #11934. We’d like to teach the child about the concept of the LFL and are incorporating it into other things. I’m very appreciative of your offer! The one you made is darling!!!!!

What a gracious soul! So over the last few weeks, I’ve been plotting and planning and constructing a miniature replica of Carrie Marie’s Little Free Library.

Here is a sneak peek:

Miniature Blue Little Free Library

Miniature Blue Little Free Library

I’m writing a second post with details of how I made it, along with the stories that go with each tiny book.

It’s been a blast!

Stay tuned.

Little Free Libraries in the News

It was exciting to wake up to a lovely article in the San Jose Mercury News: My Town  featuring our Little Free Library (LFL). My friend, Stacey Ross contacted the paper when she first heard about our LFL.  Thank you for all your support, Stacey.

alys and mouse and LFL

Article by Leeta-Rose Ballester, Photo by Jacqueline Ramseyer

Leeta-Rose Ballester stopped by our dedication ceremony and interviewed several guests. Leeta’s article Taking a Read opens with:

Like blowing on a dandelion to make a wish, sending its seeds windborne, local residents are spreading their love of reading throughout their neighborhoods via boxes full of books that are springing up on random street corners.

Isn’t that the best?

Thanks to Jacqueline Ramseyer of Bay Area News Group for the lovely photos.  It was fun seeing our feline friend prominently featured. He’s such a cheerful part of our community.

While delighted with the support of our community, my friend Susan shared this distressing post.  Spencer Collins,a 9-year-old Leawood, Kansas boy received a citation from his city, requiring him to remove his Little Free Library or pay a fine.  Here’s more of the story:

When [Spencer Collins]  tried to share his love for books, it started a surprisingly frustrating adventure.

“When we got home from vacation, there was a letter from the city of Leawood saying that it was in code violation and it needed to be down by [June] 19th or we would receive a citation,” said Spencer’s mother, Sarah Collins.

Leawood said the little house is an accessory structure. The city bans buildings that aren’t attached to someone’s home.

The family moved the little library to the garage, but Spencer Collins said he plans to take the issue up with City Hall.

Leawood said it has received two complaints about Spencer Collins’ library.

You can watch the news report here.

Spencer started a Facebook page yesterday. I’m following his page in solidarity and will be closely watching the outcome. Here’s the link to his page if you’re interested.

Meanwhile, if you live in the area and you haven’t already stopped by please do so. Summer is a great time to escape into a good read.The book selection changes frequently. There is always something for children and adults.

Dedicating the Little Free Library

Warm temperatures and a cool breeze were a welcome gift Saturday during  the Little Free Library dedication.

The idea for little libraries started in Wisconsin in 2009

Todd Bol built a model of a one-room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a former school teacher who loved reading.  He filled it with books and put it in his front yard.  His neighbors and friends loved it, so he built several more and gave them away. Each one had a sign that said FREE BOOKS.

Little Free library.org is now a non-profit as well as a movement, spreading the love of reading around the world.

I dedicated The El Codo Way Little Free Library, to two of our local teachers, Debbie Hughes Judge and Carolyn Sullivan. Carolyn and Debbie (now retired) are highly regarded 2nd grade teachers at Bagby Elementary School. They were instrumental in supporting the Books at Home program at Bagby that encouraged disadvantaged youth to read at home over the summer. They’ve both been a tremendous personal support to me as well.

Here are a few highlights of the day:

We served cookies and water on the lawn and deck. Attendees took home a bookmark made from a unique collection of Pixar Animation postcards.  No two were alike.

 

Postcard bookmarks

Postcard bookmarks

Additional thanks to Candace Levers for donating Vision Literacy bookmarks to the LFL.   You can read more about their mission at VisionLiteracy.org.

There has been such an outpouring of support for our library. It’s easy to see why they’ve caught on around the globe.