Little Free Libraries

Todd Bol and Rick Brooks, with their Little Library

Todd Bol’s mother, a book lover, died a decade ago. Two years ago, to honor her memory, Bol built a miniature library, filled it with books, and set it in his front yard in Huron, Wis.  He and his friend, Rick Brooks, an outreach program manager at the University of Wisconsin, thought the idea could grow.  It has.  Bol and Brooks estimate there are 300 to 400 little libraries in 24 states and 8 countries.  Their website,, has plans for people who want to build their own, places to purchase the small structures, and a map to track their locations.

“Take a book, leave a book,” is the operating principle.  Right now, a group of Wisconsin prison inmates is building libraries for new communities.  In New Orleans, Bol plans to make libraries out of debris left by Hurricane Katrina.  In El Paso, Texas, an elementary school where illiteracy was a problem now has two Little Libraries.  Lisa Lopez, the school librarian, says books are circulating “like crazy.”

“People tell us over and over, there’s something about the physical feel about the book in your hands,” Bol says. “It has meaning. There’s a spirit that can’t be found electronically.”

from an article in USA Today:

A Great Community Bookstore

Last week I wrote about Ann Patchett, a bestselling author who opened a bookstore after experiencing life in a city without one (  A few days later, on a drive into the gold country, Mary and I were reminded of what a treasure a community bookstore can be.

The Book Seller has been a fixture in Grass Valley, CA since 1977.  For whatever reason, we hadn’t stopped by since the days when every small town had a bookshop.  In the days before anyone said, “brick and mortar,” because there was nothing else.

Kit Cole Hattem, The Book Seller owner

We didn’t set out with this or any other destination in mind, but stopped to look in the window and then walked in.  Several customers chatting with the salesclerk and carefully arranged displays in the front suggested the store was thriving.  With Ann Patchett’s words in my mind and Joni Mitchell’s too – “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” – I looked around to see what made this bookstore work.

Unique books for one thing, stacked from floor to ceiling.  I leafed through a few biographies I hadn’t seen before.  The selections had clearly been made by readers, not corporate marketing groups.

Lots of books of regional interest – fiction, history, natural history, and travel guides for the gold country and the Sierra foothills were well represented.

And ebook fans were not left out.  Notes on every shelf invited readers to order Google format books from the Book Seller’s website.  You can read these ebooks on pcs, macs, smartphones, tablets including the kindle fire, and all dedicated readers except the kindle.

Kit Hattem, owner of the Book Seller since 1985, said the store functions as a hub of a vibrant local writing community.  As if to emphasize her words, Steve Sanfield, a nationally known poet, author, and storyteller strolled in to chat with the sales clerk and browse for a few minutes.  Sanfield founded a popular summer event, the Sierra Storytelling Festival, 26 years ago.

To top off the great vibe in the store, conversation stopped when someone came in with a dog, for The Book Seller is pet friendly.  You can’t do that at Barnes&Noble…

I think you’ll enjoy The Book Seller’s website,  If you read ebooks, think about ordering your next one from them.  And look around your own area.  What gems like this are waiting to be discovered and win your support?