In our wonderful, whimsical, walkable Sugar House, among my favorite things to discover are the take-a-book leave-a-book boxes known as Little Free Libraries. These are small, sidewalk adjacent book houses eagerly waiting to share their contents with a passerby. They may be simple or elaborate, small or roomy, no-nonsense or fanciful. They may reflect the personality of their caretaker, or simply be a box of books.
Most (but not all) little libraries are registered with littlefreelibrary.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing access to books and building community connections in the process. There are more than 100,000 nationwide.
I chose to register mine as the Wee Free Library after the Terry Pratchett book The Wee Free Men, and have painted Wee Free Men on the sides. I set up my library as an outlet for some of the many books that seem to follow me home from my compulsive buying sprees. I collect some and sell some, but offering books for free to the right home just feels good.
There are a variety of Little Library designs, including a rabbit hutch, a garden box, matching colors, mini-me’s, and many that are simply attractive and enticing.
Although books are the main draw, one might also think of these little libraries as tiny community centers. They are a great place to strike up a conversation with a fellow saunterer or the steward of the library. I like to ambush anyone who stops by at mine and compliment them on their obviously excellent taste in reading. Not really. I’m shy and … um … bookish.
In addition to finding libraries at private homes, you can find them in public spaces, in front of, or even inside, places of business. For example, one is inside Tracy Aviary and another just inside Sugar House Coffee was placed there by a Girl Scout troop.
Further afield, I have seen them along the Jordan River Trail. Those were set up by a local elementary school. The conspicuous book house at the Liberty Wells Community Garden is not only a lure for readers, but a perfect advertisement for the garden.
Books are not the only things shared through this project. You can find games, puzzles, toys, seeds, masks, canned goods and more! You get the idea. Now take this map, and go find the treasure!