July 29, 2013

Little libraries go a long way in building community

Literary trading posts spring up on Maine lawns and prove to be more than just books in a box

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Julie Falatko and her children, 3-year-old Ramona and 7-year-old Eli, rearrange books in their Little Free Library in front of their South Portland home.

Photos by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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Jon Woodcock’s library in Saco awaits borrowers and donors.

Additional Photos Below

LEARN MORE about the Little Free Library movement, including how to get involved.

The main reason for a registration fee, Brooks said, is to help the group spread the Little Free Library idea and provide structures to people who can't buy or build their own.

The Little Free Library that Oster found on her bike ride was installed around Memorial Day on the front lawn of Kristin Jordan, at Lawn Avenue and Concord Street.

Jordan, a mother of three between the ages of 3 to 6, read an article last year about the national movement.

"I'm a bookworm, and when I read about it, I just became smitten," Jordan said.

Jordan registered her Little Free Library, but it was built by her husband, Tom, a window salesman, from materials they had left over from home remodeling.

As soon as it went up on the corner of the Jordans' property, the Little Free Library started getting used. People see the sign, read the information that details the "Take a book, leave a book" ethic, and jump right in.

"I've got about 40 books in there, and we see new books in there every single day," said Jordan, 36. "I have three children, and it's so exciting for them to run out to see what's out there."

Julie Falatko of South Portland installed her Little Free Library about a year ago in front of her home on Reynolds Street. Falatko's husband built it out of home renovation leftovers. The little structure looks like a miniature version of their house.

Falatko has enjoyed watching people discover the library with a sense of wonder and joy.

She's seen people walking their dogs at midnight perusing the selection. And she's seen a boy who said he didn't like to read find a book that he was actually excited to get his hands on.

"It's really fun to watch people's reactions," she said.

Like other local Little Free Library stewards, Falatko said it's not hard to stock the library -- she just uses her own books and keeps an eye out for material at yard sales and book sales.

So far, users have been very good about putting a book in when they take a book out at the Little Free Libraries.

"I started it up with about 20 books, and there are always about 20 books in there," said Jon Woodcock of Blake Avenue in Saco, who built a Little Free Library with his son Noah about a year and a half ago. "We keep novels and things for adults on top; kids' books on the bottom."

Woodcock said he and Noah built their library out of some old pallets and other materials around the house.

The only material he had to buy was a piece of transparent hard plastic to use as the see-through door to the little roofed box.

Little Free Libraries seem to be fairly free of vandalism, and Woodcock said he has had no problems.

"I see the police patrolling in our neighborhood, and I know they keep an eye on it," he said.

Local library administrators are keeping an eye on the Little Free Library trend, too. Some are getting directly involved, like the staff at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, where programs have been held to build them.

Even library officials who haven't yet dabbled in the Little Free Library arena appreciate what it can do for books and libraries in a big-picture sense.

"It's a nice extension (of the library concept), sort of like branches at the neighborhood level," said Kevin Davis, director of the South Portland Public Library.

"It puts a thought in people's heads, it helps people get into the library habit."

Jordan likes the fact that the library is helping her share "the love of reading and books" with her three children.

She also loves the idea that her Little Free Library has created a neighborhood focal point and gathering spot where there previously had been none.

Sort of like a water cooler, but with books.

"I've seen people stop, take out a book and say, 'Look at this one,'" said Jordan. "We've met so many people through this."

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:



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Additional Photos

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Kristin Jordan and her daughter Ruby, 3, look over the selection of books in their Little Free Library at their Portland home.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer


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