On Dworkins front lawn, the Little Library also provides a bench for people to sit and read. Recently neighbor Sally Smith and her great-grandson Landon Garner took advantage of the outdoor setting to check out some books in the library.
An international reading movement has arrived in the Upper Perkiomen Valley. It is a movement, however, that can only be found when you follow a map, hear whispers of its location or simply notice a colorful barn or birdhouse-like structure along the road as you go by.
The Little Free Library is an organization that hopes to promote literacy and a love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide, from Uganda to Pakistan to the Philippines and Nicaragua, as well as create a sense of community.
The idea started in 2009 when Todd Bul, from Hudson, Wisc., wanted to create a tribute to his mother, who had been a former schoolteacher. He built a model of a one-room schoolhouse, filled it with books and placed it in his front yard with a sign that read "free books." Quickly his friends and neighbors began to love the small structure and Bul began building more.
This idea of "houses of books" quickly grew, and by January of 2014, it was officially recognized as a nonprofit organization, with approximately 15,000 little libraries currently operating around the world.
And now the Upper Perkiomen Valley has two Little Free Libraries of its own. Both libraries were uniquely created by their stewards, Matthew Kells and Terry Dworkin. Families are encouraged to stop over any time and take any book that catches their fancy, return books when finished to any Little Free Library and bring back more to share with the community – policies that are reflective of the organization's motto of "take a book, return a book."
Kells, of Palm, began his Little Free Library about two months ago. The library is built out of an old ice machine, with the books housed behind Plexiglas and electric lights strung inside to illuminate the books.
Kells, who homeschooled all three of his children, decided to share his family's love of reading and was inspired to create a Little Free Library with the shell of the ice machine. He is now a registered steward of his Little Free Library and hopes, with time, the library will continue to be a place to pick up and exchange books, as well as become a focal point for community growth.
Terry and Dan Dworkin, of Upper Hanover Township, opened their Little Free Library in April as a birthday president from Dan to Terry.
"At my age you're finished buying gifts and jewelry and flowers, because you don't need those types of things anymore. I wanted something I could give to my neighbors," Terry said. She explained how she saw the library Bul made for his mom and thought "how great of an idea it was to celebrate his mother's love for literacy."
"Reading is the foundation for all of life," Terry, a teacher of 35 years, said. Compared with reading electronically, she noted, "I have more of a connection with the book. I can see in an instant how much more I have to go and how many more pages an exciting plot has to go before it ends; it is a much more personal experience. Not everyone has the electronic devices to read on, but everyone has access to a Little Free Library or a public library."
Her library was handbuilt to resemble an old barn, having been inspired by the fact that it resides on Old Barn Road and has a wide variety of history, children's and adult fiction books. Terry mentioned how her favorite memory so far of her Little Free Library was when she heard, "giggling out front, and looked out the front window and saw [her] next door neighbor Sally and her great-grandson Landon giggling over a book."
In that moment she knew; the bond two people can have over a book is exactly what she had hoped to create by opening her Little Free Library.
The two local little libraries are located at 803 Gravel Pike, Palm (Kells) and 2113 Old Barn Road, East Greenville (the Dworkins). Both libraries are free and open to the public all hours of the day; simply drop by, pick up a book, drop off a book or give a book to expand the collections of both.
Anyone interested in starting or supporting a Little Free Library can either build, order or sponsor one. Building your own library can be a fun family project or gift that can be designed any way you would like.
The Little Free Library's website also sells premade libraries for those who either might not have the time or resources to build their own, but want to become a part of the movement. Sponsoring a library gives money to people around the world who are interested in starting their own libraries but need the support of the global community to make it happen.
For step-by-step instruction on how to get started as well as other information about the Little Free Library organization, please visit littlefreelibrary.org.