Heights Libraries has become part of a small movement with big potential: Little Free Libraries.
Little Free Libraries are just that — small, dollhouse-like structures containing books for people to borrow or exchange. The concept is similar to those “take a penny, leave a penny” bowls you see by cash registers. If you take a book, bring another book to replace it. Or just return it. They are located on yards, tree lawns, street corners– just about anywhere they can fit.
Heights Libraries will be putting up three Little Free Libraries in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights community over the next few months. The project is yet another way for Heights Libraries to encourage reading and literacy, and encourage members of the community to engage with one another.
“Little Free Libraries are a great way to get people excited about books and talking about them at the neighborhood level,” says Heights Libraries Special Projects Coordinator Sam Lapides. “The people who live in Cleveland Heights and University Heights are passionate about reading and literacy, and also passionate about their neighborhoods, so this project fits in to our community perfectly.”
A big part of the charm of the Heights Little Free Library is the little library itself. Built by Cleveland Heights business Silsby Stained Glass and Woodworking, who donated the labor and used mostly recycled materials, the roughly 3’ x 3’structure brings to mind an elegant dollhouse, with solid wooden walls and real roof tiles to keep books dry and snug in all kinds of weather, and elegant leaded glass doors that invite the community to “Take a Book, Leave a Book.” In an age of eBooks and online communication, the Little Free Library is refreshingly low-tech.
“Now we just need homes for them,” says Lapides. “We’re fortunate that there is a former children’s librarian who lives near the Noble branch, and she volunteered to be a steward for the very first one, which is located on her tree lawn at the corner of Sylvania and Elmwood. She’ll work with Constance Dickerson, branch manager at Noble, to keep the box well stocked with gently used children’s and adult books that have been donated or weeded from our collection.”
According to the Google map created by the Little Free Library organization (www.littlefreelibrary.org), Ohio currently has five of the structures, including one in Cleveland on West 82nd Street. Once installed, the Heights Libraries Little Free Library will be the second in Northeast Ohio, and will be submitted to the website for inclusion on the map.
“There are many exciting options for how we can use them,” says Lapides. “We can develop themes for each box depending on where they’re installed. We can create programming tie-ins. We can involve the community in new ways.”