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Posts Tagged ‘Little Free Library’

By Golly, it pays to read the alum magazine. The people I knew at grad school are no longer posting their achievements, but younger people are doing plenty of creative and interesting things! Consider a 2017 Syracuse University grad who launched a national campaign not far from where I live.

Brandon Dyer wrote about her initiative at Syracuse University Magazine. “When in-person instruction at her school was canceled for the rest of the year because of the pandemic, school guidance counselor Sarah Kamya ’17 decided to work from her hometown of Arlington, Massachusetts. Unlike her New York City apartment, her home in Arlington had enough room to accommodate a makeshift office.

“After her online workday was over, Kamya often tried to spend time outside. ‘I would go on a lot of walks every day, and I passed a few Little Libraries in my neighborhood,’ she says. The Little Free Libraries are part of a national network of outdoor, weatherproof, publicly accessible bookshelves that serve as a free book exchange in many communities. ‘I found that they were a great place to get or share books,’ Kamya says. …

“As an undergraduate majoring in child and family studies [at Syracuse’s] Falk College, Kamya had interned at a local middle school. Although she enjoyed her hands-on experience, it underscored the fact that people of color are still underrepresented in materials used to support the curriculum — an observation Kamya recalled from her own childhood as a book lover who rarely saw herself represented. …

“For the past year, Kamya has been working at Manhattan’s Public School 191, the Riverside School for Makers and Artists, where she has seen how important an inclusive curriculum is to the students, who are predominately people of color. …

“In the Little Free Libraries near her home office, Kamya saw an opportunity to enlighten her community. She began by placing books that offered full, relatable portrayals of Black characters. ‘It was a light bulb, and it just worked out with the timing of being home, the timing of the protests going on. … Why not take this opportunity to really spread awareness and open up people’s eyes to things that they hadn’t seen before?’

“Kamya says these books can potentially enhance awareness, providing access to literature that is new to many families and giving all children an opportunity to read stories that feature Black excellence. She believes books have the power to create change. ‘That change may be within ourselves or spread to others.’ She calls her project Little Free Diverse Libraries.

“To finance books, she started with a request on social media. She asked her family and friends to make a donation and promised all proceeds would be spent at Black-owned bookstores. This idea resonated with people, and she raised $10,000. Then, New York City author Eva Chen amplified Kamya’s message to her own 1.4 million followers and suggested a way to streamline the donation process. …

“ ‘People are really supportive of this project and have been helping me expand this further than I ever imagined.’

“To date, 28 different states have received or will be receiving books from Kamya’s collection. She filled 15 Little Libraries in her hometown of Arlington, and volunteers in Austin, Texas, filled five. Three Little Libraries in Los Angeles have received books like Undefeated, written by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson, and Hair Love, written by Matthew Cherry and illustrated by Vashti Harrison. Other examples include Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, Michelle Obama’s Becoming, and Beverly Daniel Tatum’s Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?

“During her summer vacation, Kamya is spending a lot of time in her dining room processing the piles of books. She’s enlisted friends and her parents, calling the project a team effort. ‘I had to make my mom relocate her home office, but it’s okay,’ she says. When donations arrive, Kamya spends at least an hour unboxing everything. Each book is outfitted with individual stickers that say: ‘Black stories matter. This book was chosen with love by anti-racist educators. Please treat it with care and return it to the Little Free Library so that others can enjoy it.’

“Although her project is time consuming, the potential benefits for people of color inspire Kamya.

‘My hope is that these younger people and students will really feel motivated. Hopefully students of color can see themselves represented and go out there and make change.’ …

“Kamya’s goal is for these books to be accessible to all people and to inspire conversations. ‘I want the books to keep replenishing themselves. I want Black authors to keep writing books, and for characters that are minorities to be represented.’ ” More.

The original Little Free Library team also interviewed Kamya, asking, for example:

“What advice do you have for Little Free Library stewards who want to share diverse books in their libraries?
“My advice for Little Free Library stewards is to reach out to those in the community. When I started this project, I had people reach out to me saying they were a teacher or a parent, and they had some books they would like to donate, or their kid had outgrown the books and they were happy to drop off these books so the next person could have them. Sometimes people don’t even know what they have until they take a closer look at their collection!  I would also suggest thinking about your own community, who is represented, who is not represented and what books can you add to your library to welcome or educate those within the community. …

“Can Little Free Library stewards apply to receive books from you?
“I am continuing to send books, as long as I have the books and the funds. If stewards would like to receive books they can reach out to me via email, through the [Little Free Library stewards’ private] Facebook group, or on Instagram.

“What are your top 10 favorite diverse children’s books?
“1. Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO by Dr. Tamara Pizzoli
“2. I Am Enough by Grace Beyers
“3. Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
“4. Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
“5.The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander
“6. Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
“7. The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad
“8. The Day you Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
“9. Hair Love by Matthew Cherry
“10. Of Thee I Sing by Barack Obama”

More at the Little Free Library site, here. For a podcast by Kamya, click at Syracuse University Magazine. And check out the Little Free Diverse Libraries Instagram profile.

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Photo: @JasonThorne_RPP on Twitter
Seattle artist Stacy Milrany has come up with a new twist on the Little Free Library concept: Take some art, leave some art.

You know about the Little Free Library movement (e.g., here and at Fake Flamenco, here). And you know about the miniature art gallery that blossomed in Boston at the start of the pandemic (here). But did you know about the Little Free Art Library in Seattle? You may be interested to see how the idea evolved from something the artist had done for her mother. Cathy Free at the Washington Post has the story.

“Stacy Milrany probably runs the only art gallery in the country where visitors are encouraged to walk away with the art. And as far as she knows, her Little Free Art Gallery in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood is likely the only museum where all of the works will fit neatly in a pocket.

“Milrany’s miniature gallery, which opened for public view on Dec. 13, sits five feet off the ground inside a white wooden box in front of her house. The head curator and painter said she based her idea on the popular Little Free Libraries in neighborhoods coast to coast.

‘The idea is pretty simple — anyone is welcome to leave a piece, take a piece or just have a look around and enjoy what’s inside,’ said Milrany, a painter who runs a small, appointment-only gallery featuring her works. …

“Milrany gave her wee museum a contemporary design [and] installed a tiny bench and small plastic people who, she said, appear to be reflecting on the art. The bench and people are part of the permanent collection and not for the taking. …

“Said Milrany, ‘Just the surprise of seeing what people put in there has made this super fun for me.’ So far, she has seen works featuring bulldogs, masked heroes and a chicken farmer, as well as intricate collages and painted seashells.

“It was March 2019 when she first started creating miniature art pieces. … Milrany’s mother had just been diagnosed with cancer and was about to begin chemotherapy treatment in Portland, Ore., about 2½ hours away from her home.

“ ‘I decided if I couldn’t be with her every day she was going through treatment, I could offer a little piece of something via UPS every single day — something made by a human hand to add some brightness to those dark days,’ she said.

“Friends and gallery visitors offered to help when they learned what Milrany was doing for her mother, and together they created 140 pieces of mixed-media pieces of art measuring 4-by-6 inches each. Her mother, who is now healthy, said the daily deliveries helped her to get through the most difficult time of her life, Milrany said.

“When the pandemic took hold in Seattle last year, she decided to expand her idea and paint 500 more small artworks and send them to people who were isolated because of the virus. She called her project ‘Dose of Art.’

“ ‘I put a notice on Instagram and people started asking me to mail them to people who were in nursing homes or their moms or dads who were home alone,’ Milrany said. …

“Then last month, Milrany came up with the idea for her Little Free Art Gallery.

“A carpenter friend helped her build an 18-by-15-inch cedar display case, paint it white and install it on a post out front, along with a sign:

“ ‘Welcome to the smallest free-est art gallery in the world. Have a look around! If you’d like to take a piece, please leave another piece in its place for the next art-lover who comes around.’ …

“ ‘In three days, 10 pieces had come and gone,’ Milrany said. She was a bit saddened, however, to discover that one of her plastic miniature gallery figures — a character she named Chef — had gone missing.

“Milrany posted a sign asking for the return of her ‘4.7 inch chef and arts patron’ — and a week later, an anonymous donor mailed her an entire new set of whimsical plastic people to place inside the museum. …

“Many of the people who tuck artwork inside her gallery are Seattle-area artists, delighted to find a new venue for their work.

“Artist A. McLean Emenegger created a piece that features her grandfather as a young man, enjoying some time with a friend. ‘It’s a nod to joyful abandon,’ said Emenegger, 53, who added beeswax, sewing thread and bits of turquoise and coral to an old family photo for her contribution. … She said, ‘There’s something charming and reassuring about the Little Free Library concept. And translating that into an art exchange is genius.’

“Burton Holt, an artist who primarily creates works with found objects, donated a piece he’d made from colorful rubber bands. ‘The gallery is a real shot in the arm for the neighborhood in these difficult times,’ said Holt, 80, a retired ship captain.”

More at the Washington Post, here. Follow Milrany on Instagram @stacy_milrany_art.

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Photo: Star Tribune
Police officers working to build a free-standing Little Free Library in Minneapolis as part of an initiative to encourage reading.

According to Libor Jany at the Star Tribune, some Minneapolis police officers are starting to engage with communities in a new way.

“In a partnership with Little Free Library, the department will turn a pair of its police cruisers into bookmobiles with the hope of teaching the importance of reading.

“Community policing officers will carry books while they are making their rounds on the city’s North and South sides. They’ll still respond to certain emergencies, but won’t be dispatched to calls for help, freeing them up to visit neighborhoods without libraries and give away books to anyone who wants them.

“The program is the first of its kind in the country, organizers say. …

“From a distance, the [Little Free Library] boxes could be mistaken for a birdhouse or an oversized mailbox. An unfinished dollhouse, even. But when they’re finished, officials say they’ll be stocked with dozens of all kinds books. People are encouraged to take a book or leave a book, without fear of overdue fines. …

“Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said in a statement that he was thrilled by the exercise in community building, ‘an incredible way to empower our youth and reach them in a positive way.’ …

“Little Free Library Executive Director Todd Bol started the book exchange in his hometown of Hudson, Wis., in 2009, building the first mini-library out of an old garage door in honor of his late mother. Today, there are more than 60,000 libraries in all 50 states and more than 80 countries around the world. In recent years, the little book boxes have sprung up in far-flung places like Australia and Qatar. …

“For now, available titles to be given away range from children’s books like ‘Camp Wildhog’ and ‘The Box Car Children: The Yellow House Mystery’ to more adult fare, including a well-thumbed unauthorized biography of Martha Stewart.” More.

Trust those Minnesotans to take a great concept a step farther!

A couple of my other posts on Little Free Libraries may be found here and here.

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Photo: Jason Koxvold

Question: What is halfway between the book-sharing Little Free Libraries that are sweeping the country and your town library? Answer: A personal library set apart from your home in a tiny house.

The Today show interviewed an artist whose friends helped him build one, perhaps also securing themselves a place to stay as a guest.

Christina Poletto reports, “In New York’s Ulster County, at the base of the Catskills Mountains, Jason Koxvold’s woodland home has a new addition to the property that is nothing short of stunning. There, tucked among the property’s forest of oak trees, sits a tiny one-room library which holds 2,500 books.

“Koxvold, a British artist based in New York, owns the property and was inspired to carve out a space specifically for solitude and escape. ‘I work from this location and was looking to make a quiet space for writing and reflection,’ Koxvold told TODAY.

“When there’s an overflow of visiting guests, the forest library also serves as an additional bedroom. …

“Koxvold desired a simple, singular structure that he could construct on his own using red oak from the property.

“Using already-felled trees left over from the construction of the main house, cut trees were planed on site into large log sections measuring 8 x 8 feet. After air drying the 12,000 lbs of milled red oak for several seasons, they became the shelving and cubbies that make up the the library’s interior.

“Koxvold was able to complete this structure with the help of eight different friends over the course of a year.

“While the monolithic shape and black exterior is shocking against the natural forest forms, the interior, heated by a single small wood stove, is as warm as it is cozy. A lone picture window looking into the forest is a source of natural light. …

“If you’re lucky enough to be invited as a guest, you’re welcome to leave a private message in one of the books on the shelves.” More.

Nice idea about leaving notes. In Suzanne and Erik’s Harlem apartment, an entire wall was available for written messages. Guests loved it.

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This healthy sunflower is at the Old Manse in Concord. The Trustees of Reservations always plant a big garden there, with pumpkins growing between the corn rows.

The lantern-like seed pods in the next photo embellish a tree beside the Providence River. The leaf shadows on brick were spotted not far away, along a grubby Providence sidewalk.

Can you read the plaque on the Providence Journal building? It shows the crazy height that the water reached in the infamous Hurricane of ’38. Golly!

My husband says the barrier at Fox Point will prevent flooding like that from ever happening again. I don’t know. Were the engineers aware of global warming when they started construction in 1960?

New Shoreham (in the next picture) was also battered in the hurricane of ’38. In fact, the storm wiped out the island economy on land and sea. The fishermen and farmers were not insured against such a catastrophe. No wonder people there remember that hurricane!

One thing that is different since 1938, as I learned in a splendid book called A Wind to Shake the World, communities in the path of a hurricane now get plenty of warning. But in 1938, when houses on Long Island, New York, were washing out to sea, no one up north knew it.

A few other shots of New Shoreham: a Wednesday farmers market, the Little Free Library, a view through a stone wall, a rumpled morning sky, and the North Light.

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I have blogged before about the Little Free Library movement (for example, here), and I have sometimes wondered if everyone uses the libraries as intended, taking a book and returning it or contributing another.

Today John sent this link from BookRiot.com. A woman who sponsors a Little Free Library, Swapna Krishna, is stamping all her books with a message that folks should play by the rules.

She writes, “One thing I started doing a month ago (and I’m very glad of now) is that I ordered a custom stamp for my library and started stamping the books I put out. It doesn’t require that the person return the book (and honestly, I don’t care whether they do or not), but it does tell a used bookstore or library that they really shouldn’t be buying that book or accepting it for donation. And I hope that if something like this happens, they’ll make their way back to me eventually.

“I purchased the stamp off Etsy from TailorMadeStamps. They were easy to work with and did a pretty awesome job in not much time!” The stamp is below, with her address blotted out for the Internet.

I love the idea of TailorMadeStamps and can think of a number of stamp messages that might come in handy. How about this variation on an old friend’s rejection to rejection slips: “Thank you for your recent scam letter about reducing my debts. I’m obliged to inform you that it does not meet my needs at the current time. However, I have forwarded it the attorney general, who may have a use for it.”

On second thought, that might be a little too long for a stamp — and expensive. How about “Just returning your unsolicited credit card account offer in this unstamped envelope”?

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My winter resolution will have to be to find more photo ops when the world isn’t blooming. I’ll have to look harder for interesting shadows and shapes in a black & white world. In the meantime, I sure am enjoying summer picture taking.

The first photo is of a Little Free Library in the Greenway. (Check out the concept here.) Then there’s the Bookshop window. Can you read the funny signs? They say, “I don’t remember the title … but the cover was blue.”

Next is the herb garden behind the church and Doug Baker’s bonsai trees. He once gave a very young Suzanne and her friend Joanna little bonsai trees, admonishing them that the trees had to be as carefully tended as babies. (Alas, the girls were too young to tend babies.)

After the planter with the escaping petunias come flowering weeds and hydrangeas on my street.

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A Little Free Library has come to Cambridge.

Writes Jan Gardner at the Sunday Globe, “About a block from the Cambridge Public Library, its Lilliputian cousin is perched atop a post on the sidewalk. At this Little Free Library, open since mid-October, there are no due dates, late fees, or library cards. Made out of recycled wood, it consists of a single shelf that holds about 20 books.

“The library’s founders are Laura Roberts and Ed Belove who put it in front of their house at 1715 Cambridge St. so they can keep an eye on it. …

“Sabrina Françon, a student at the nearby Harvard Graduate School of Design, sees the Little Free Library as an example of tactical urbanism, a trend she is studying. She wants to determine whether small playful citizen projects like the Little Free Library influence a neighborhood’s social capital.” Roberts reports to Françon what she sees from the window.

“The little library had its origins on Facebook. A friend of Roberts posted a message about Little Free Library, a nonprofit that started in Wisconsin three years ago. Founder Todd Bol built the first library in tribute to his late mother, a book lover.”

More from the Globe. You may also want to read my earlier post on the concept here. By the way, have you ever noticed that the Globe posts weekday articles fast, but Sunday Globe articles like this one may wait until Tuesday.

Photograph: Laura Roberts

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