No Cost Literacy

‘Little Free Libraries’ on the rise

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton Ryan and Savannah Casey with their “Casey’s Cabinet of Curiosities,” a Little Free Library on Connecticut Avenue in Warren.

More than 108,000 Little Free Libraries can be found in 108 countries.

In Warren County, there are eight of the small, front-yard book exchanges.

But that number is growing.

And Little Free Library librarians are hoping to see even more pop up around the county.

There are currently eight known Little Free Libraries in Warren County — Kondak’s Market in Clarendon, Warren General Hospital RehabWorks, First Lutheran Church in Warren, 115 Pine St. in Russell, the Rouse Children’s Center in Youngsville, 24 Shipman’s Eddy and 109 Connecticut Ave.

Photo provided to the Times Observer The Lester’s Little Free Library on Shipmans Eddy.

“My Little Free Library does not just belong to me; it belongs to the neighborhood,” Savannah Casey said of her and her husband Ryan’s “Casey’s Cabinet of Curiosities.”

The idea is pretty simple — if you want a book, take one. If you want to share one, put one in.

“It is my hope that this little library will bring a little more joy, a little more connection, and a whole lot more books to our community,” Casey said. “I have always had a love for reading and advocate(d) for early literacy.

Learning to read is about listening and understanding, as well as working out, fundamentally, what is printed on the page. Through hearing stories, children are exposed to a wide range of words. This helps them build their own vocabulary and improve their understanding when they listen, which is a vital component to reading.”

Gary and Penny Lester have one that can be found at 24 Shipmans Eddy.

Penny said she was a middle school librarian and “loved promoting the love of reading.”

“When we were lucky enough to find a small ‘piece of paradise’ on Shipmans Eddy, right on the river, I just knew it was the time to offer a Little Free Library there,” Lester explained. “It was a great way to meet our neighbors and my special intent was to provide reading materials for visitors to the Eddy.”

Their library also has a hook with plastic baggies for visiting dogs.

Lester said their nephew-in-law constructed it out of reclaimed barn wood.

“The variations and construction types are amazing,” she said.

“For people wanting to start one, I advise them to just use their imagination. The main thing is to consider a structure that will withstand rain and snow, and to make it easy for persons of all ages to open and browse through the books.”

She said friends and family keep an eye out for books to contribute and said library sources and garage sales are great sources.

“I try to rotate books every month or so, but that depends on how much it is being used,” Lester said. “With some many LFLs springing up in our area, we’ll be able to trade our books.”

Lester said the LFL at First Luthern is specifically geared for middle school students given the proximity to Beaty and one at the Audubon Community Nature Center specializes in books on nature.

“I believe there can never be too many in an area!”

The Russell Library has its own Facebook page: “Little Free Library -115 Pine St. Russell Pa.”

They’ve seen increased activity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – children’s books on the bottom, books for adults on the top shelf.

John Page installed one outside Kondak’s Market that opened in April 2021.

RehabWorks put one up several years ago and the one at the Rouse Children’s Center was an idea of one of the nursing home patients and established by the Friends of Rouse.

Casey — whose library also has a Facebook page at “Casey’s Cabinet of Curiosities” — has plugged into that worldwide network of libraries.

“Since joining the Little Free Library movement, I have met stewards from all over the world,” she said. “They chat with me, on Facebook, about their ideas and provide me with priceless information, tips and tricks, and resources. Everything from maintenance of my library such as lighting the inside and protection from termites to resources on where to get free books donated via the mail.”

And, as she admits, she’s got the itch to see these libraries grow.

“Now that I have the first one constructed, there is an itch that will not go away!” she said. “My goal is to keep constructing as many little libraries as I can, hopefully working with others in the Warren area to place more throughout the entire County.”

For prospective builders, Casey recommended a pitched roof as a precaution against rain and making sure to water seal and rust proof any parts that are repurposed.

“And, don’t get discouraged when you wake up one day and find an entire section of books gone,” she said. “I’ve been wiped out twice already.”

If having your own isn’t for you, the idea is that these libraries are self-sustaining.

“Getting involved by donating their gently used books would be the best way of giving back,” Casey said.

They can be placed either in the library “if they’ll fit” or dropped on the porch.

“It costs nothing to the patrons that stop. They can take as many or as few as they want,” she said. “Also, I hope people donate books to more than just my box. The Russell and Clarendon boxes need books too.”

“One of the things I emphasize is this: In my mind, a LFL is a gift of sharing reading with our community,” Lester said. “If a book is not returned, do not worry about it. In many cases, it may be because the borrower loved it so much they wanted to keep it, or better yet, they shared it with someone else!”


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