In Honor of Todd Boll, Creator of Little Free Libraries

In 2009, Todd Bol put a small wooden box in front of his Hudson, Wisconsin, home and unwittingly started a movement. Bol, who died Thursday at age 62, filled the box—shaped like a one-room schoolhouse in honor of his late teacher mother, who had loved reading—with books. He encouraged his neighbors to borrow a book or leave a book. And so the Little Free Library movement was born.

This article first appeared in the Februrary 2018 issue of Rock Hill Reader the Magazine

It’s a birdhouse! It’s a dollhouse! No, it’s a library! A little Free Library, that is!

Launched by Todd Bol in 2009, who built a one-room schoolhouse model and erected it in the front yard of his Hudson, Wisconsin home. Since then, 60,000 libraries in 80 countries have popped up with millions of books exchanged annually, profoundly increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds.

Just as it sounds, Little Free Libraries (LFL for short) are miniature libraries full of free books. You can take a book from the library, and then either return it when you finish or add a new book to the collection. They come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common version is a small wooden box of books. Anyone may take a book or bring a book to share. According to the LFL world map, there are 33 registered Little Free Libraries in Rock Hill. However, Neal Barber, president of Rock Hill Council of Neighborhoods, says he knows of at least 42 within City Limits alone.

In an effort to encourage and promote reading and literacy in local communities, Laura Ashley, Marketing Manager at Resolute Forest Products explains their part in the movement. “We love supporting this reading initiative on a very local and very direct level”. Since 2014 the paper producer, responsible for producing much of North America’s book paper, has worked with the Rock Hill Council of Neighborhoods to pick installation spots, recruit Resolute employees as stewards, donate books, and commission carpenters to build the structures. You can see some of their handiwork at local parks like Manchester Meadows, Riverwalk Park, and Cherry Park. Elementary Schools; Lesslie, Old Pointe, and Northside are homes to Little Free Libraries. And even a miniature White Home full of literature can be found at the historic site’s parking lot.

Laura hopes more awareness will not only give reading material to those who may not have it at home but also “Inspire regular citizens to drop off their own books directly into the Little Free Libraries when their children have outgrown them. You would not believe the number of children who frequent the Cherry Park Little Free Library, especially in the summer [with] camps and daycares”. She goes on to say that Riverwalk, which is visited by 10,000 walkers and runners each month, as well as Manchester Meadows are hot spots for children readers are difficult to keep filled.

Janice Nichols started her Little Free Library after traveling to Charleston, South Carolina. She took a walk, found a Little Free Library, and discovered a book she loved. Hoping to share her love of reading, Janice installed her own LFL in her neighborhood, starting it with books her children had outgrown. Considering the older residents in her neighborhood, Janice thought this project would also serve them. “Some of the older people can’t get to the library and they love to read as well, so I wanted to give back to those neighbors”. It is suggested that Little Free Libraries be installed in areas with high foot traffic. But Janice, who does not live on a main road, says hers does really well regardless of its location.

These charming yard decorations are heart-warming, civic-minded gestures that come from a desire to help the community in a meaningful way. Little Free Libraries around Rock Hill wouldn’t be possible without the joint effort of those around the community. They are part of service projects that help promote the importance of reading and having easily accessible books for everyone. Neighborhoods, businesses, and schools all take part in the effort. Stewards from Resolute, St. John’s United Methodist Church, the Beta Club at Rock Hill High School, and regular folks just like Janis give time, energy, and resources to fill and maintain area libraries.

Interested in adding an LFL to your neighborhood? Follow the steps below to get started.

First, find a spot easily accessible that already has abundant foot traffic. The Little Free Library next needs a steward, someone to monitor and maintain the structure as well as make sure there are books inside. The actual library itself can either be bought online or built. If you choose to build your own Little Free Library, you must register it with littlefreelibrary.org so that they can give you a charter and make your library official for use. After that, promote and advertise. Tell neighbors, friends, the kids you babysit, your son’s baseball coach, maybe even your barista—let everyone know that a new Little Free Library is on the market.

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