BOOKS FOR EVERYONE: Little Free Libraries pop up throughout Lake Country
WRITTEN AND PHOTOGRAPHED BY KATE PERKINS
THE CONCEPT FOR LITTLE FREE LIBRARIES IS SIMPLE: A cupboard of books in a public place. Take a book, borrow a book, or leave a book. Open the door and see what you discover on the thousands of pages inside, waiting to be read.
Little Free Libraries are free book exchanges that are popping up outside stores and along neighborhood sidewalks across Minnesota, across the country and around the world.
Krista Soukup and TyAnne Guida Rezac are neighbors who share a love of books. Soukup heard about Little Free Libraries, sent Rezac a message over Facebook, and it wasn’t long before they had one of the first Little Free Libraries in Brainerd.
Rezac’s father, Gary Guida, went online to the Little Free Libraries website and downloaded the free, basic plans for building a Little Free Library. He built it out of scrap wood, and a local painter used leftover paint to finish the outside.
“It’s perfect because it’s located right across from the park,” Soukup said. The Little Free Library, painted in yellow and red, sits along the east side of Brainerd’s Gregory Park. Perhaps because of its location, the Little Free Library gets lots of use. Rezac said she watches from her windows and sees people almost do a double take, as they walk by the library, walk back, and open it up.
“It’s like they almost can’t believe that they can help themselves,” Rezac said.
Rezac and Soukup have no idea how many books go in and out of the Little Free Library, because books are constantly replenished or taken by community members they have yet to meet. Several times, Rezac has seen the same woman drive up, refill the library with books and drive away. Rezac has seen children as young as 2 placing their own books in the Little Free Library.
All sorts of books show up in the Little Free Library: children’s books, novels, cookbooks, self help books and more. Children’s books go the fastest, though, Rezac and Soukup agreed. Soukup is a literary publicist, and Rezac a reading specialist, so they share a passion for books and the literary world.
“My main drive is to get more books in the hands of parents and children so they can have more experiences reading aloud at home,” Rezac said, adding that 80 percent or more of literary success is dependent on development between birth and age 5. “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”
While sometimes books that leave the library don’t come back, Rezac and Soukup don’t mind. That means more books are in a home that weren’t there before, they agree.
Biff Ulm manages his family’s business, Zaiser’s in downtown Nisswa. He wanted a Little Free Library for much the same reason Soukup and Rezac did — to get books in the hands of anyone who wanted them, especially children.
“Literacy is so, so, so important,” Ulm said. “There’s something different about a kid checking out a book versus being able to take it and have ownership.”
He liked the fact that kids travelling through the community, especially during high tourist season in the summer, would be able to pick a book and claim it as their own.
Ulm knew, going into the installation of the Little Free Library two years ago, that he would need more space than the average size, since he’s located in a commercial area with a lot of foot traffic. He had saved up books that he, his wife, and their three children had all read. (“We just demolish books,” Ulm said of his family’s reading habits.) Even though he had enough books to fill up the large cabinet twice over, he quickly learned they wouldn’t last long.