They look like birdhouses, but on closer examination these little wooden homes on poles are not full of birds—they’re packed with books.
These Little Free Libraries are a way for area residents to share books among themselves. Based upon the honor system, anyone can open the little glass door and take a book to read.
“Take one,” said Barbara Morgan, the steward of Jack-son’s first Little Free Library on Adams Street next to the Ground-A-Bout and a new one installed this summer in Taylor Twins Memorial Garden. “Return one if you can.”
Jeff Trinkle, the director of Riverside Regional Library, and Morgan, a “Friend of the Library,” were instrumental in getting these two libraries installed in Uptown Jackson. Riverside Regional Library paid for the two tiny structures, and the books inside are some that were donated to the Regional Library. “They are books the library accumulates,” Morgan said.
Currently, the Little Free Library in Taylor Twins Memorial Garden is pale green. Longtime artist and Jackson resident Vickie Outman plans to give it a more attractive exterior when the summer heat is past and the temperature cools.
The Little Free Library is an international movement. Its Internet site (https://littlefreelibrary.org) has an interactive map to help people find official locations around the world. Not all the little libraries are registered on the site.
“Cape has nine or so,” said Morgan.
Jackson has several locations in addition to the two Uptown. One is not officially a Little Free Library but it works on the same principle: it’s a book shelf in the Jackson Civic Center, Trinkle is the steward of that location.
“Each library has a steward that checks on the books,” Morgan said. If a book has been sitting untouched for a long time, it may be replaced by another book that will be taken and read.
“Residents are their own stewards,” Morgan said.
Two Jackson residents who have installed Little Free Libraries in front of their homes are the Burks (Steve and Jan) at 1416 Bramblewood, and the Warrens (Dave and Christine), on Green Meadows Drive near Ridge Road.
The Burks made their decision after seeing them in other cities. “When visiting our sons in Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis, MN, over the past several years, we began spotting these ‘boxes of books’ in the neighborhoods we were walking in. We took a closer look and noticed the Little Free Library logo and started investigating just what that was,” Jan recalled.
“Steve and I have always been avid readers,” she continued. “As poor college students many of our dates were to the library. I know that sounds boring, but, alas, it is true. We moved around a bit when our children were young and always located two places in a new town: church and library (in that order).
“Add to that the fact that I spent my career teaching young children to ‘learn to read,’ and Steve spent his time in the classroom as a history teacher encouraging teenagers to ‘read to learn’ we hoped to continue that tradition.”
The Little Free Library Internet site offers kits for sale so people can assemble their own library. “We did order from the Web site when there was a special sale,” admitted Jan. “But I think most people who have more tool and building knowledge than we do would be able to follow the blueprints on the Web site or come up with their own plans to build one easily.”
The Burks thought they had a ready-made audience from all the walkers in their neighborhood.
Some people may have thought the little library was great way to get rid of their unwanted books. “There have been more people leaving books than taking books in this first month,” said Jan. “The most use seems to be in the children’s category.”
Being a steward doesn’t have to be hard work. “One can make that as complicated (putting out Facebook posts, signs, etc.) or as simple as you wish,” said Jan. “We chose the simple route. We check it about once a week and try to change books and see if there seems to be interest in a particular type book.”
“Last Christmas my daughter gifted me with a copy of Tales From Shakespeare from a Free Little Library in Asheville, NC.,” said Christine Warren, an English education instructor at Southeast Missouri State University and a retired JHS English teacher. “Then Jan Burk told me she was getting one for Mother’s Day, and I thought the Little Free Library would be a great idea on the east side of Jackson.”
Warren explained why she and her husband put a Little Free Library in front of their house: “I am a reading advocate and a fanatical reader myself,” she explained.
Building and installing the library was not difficult. “My husband, Dave, found the plans for the library online and took the design from there. He made it look like our cabin in Tennessee, complete with a green metal roof. Then we registered with the Free Little Library Association and put the official plaque on the library box.”
You might think a little library in a residential driveway would get ignored, but that’s not the case. “I’ve had mine up since May and have had a steady stream of readers,” said Warren. “I have some return readers, like a friend’s daughter who loves to find Junie B. Jones books in the LFL. Almost everyone who takes a book, leaves a book, so the library is usually full.”
You don’t have to be a neighbor to use Warren’s library. “I want everyone to feel free to use the library, but I am partial to supplying kids’ books. I teach the children’s literature course at Southeast.”
Upkeep is simple, she said. “I check the box every three to four days when I am home, and I try to rotate the books in and out. I have many books I am willing to share.”
“Children and adults are so busy and so attached to phones/tablets/electronics these days it would be nice to know that someone does still have an interest in reading a book!” said Burk.
Jackson has at least one other residential Little Free Library on Dana Drive, and Doris Dace installed one in the park in Pocahontas several years ago.
In this day and age when so many people are glued to their phone, tablet and computer screens, it’s nice to see that reading good old-fashioned books is not a thing of the past. Books are still popular as Little Free Libraries are popping up everywhere.