DuBOIS — “Take a book, leave a book.”
“Little Free Libraries” have grown to become a movement worldwide, with more than 126,000 of them registered at www.littlefreelibrary.org, a nonprofit organization that “inspires a love of reading, builds community and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges,” its website says.
Treasure Lake resident and avid reader Judy Smith decided to embark on the LFL adventure over three years ago — the first “official” one registered in DuBois with www.littlefreelibrary.org. Located in her front yard on Caribbean Road, Smith’s little free library was built specifically to resemble her home.
LFLs don’t necessarily have to be registered, said Smith, but those that are appear on the online map. Some readers make it their mission to travel around and find new ones, taking photos of the libraries and making sure to leave a book of their own.
There are several in Clearfield and surrounding counties, said Smith, including a few in DuBois. Resident Lisa Summerson has both a free library and pantry in front of her West DuBois Avenue home. There is also one in front of the Soul Platter Cafe, another near Frank’s Pizza downtown and one on Monroe Street and Boy Scout Road, to name a few.
Marcy Murphy, a resident of 301 W. Sherman Ave. in DuBois, is brand new to the LFL world. She has had numerous people reach out and give her books, she said, noting the community’s generosity.
“I am thrilled to have a library open to our neighborhood,” she said. “I think it’s important to promote literacy. I also love the community spirit that is part of the Little Free Library world.”
Smith’s fascination with the LFL has only grown throughout the years. People come up with unique ideas to make their own, too, such as gutting and painting an old grandfather clock to store books.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have upped the popularity of this idea, said Smith, since most public libraries were closed for various lengths of time.
LFL “stewards” sometimes keep goodies in theirs, too. Smith keeps items such as sunglasses, “reading buddy” stuffed animals and stickers for visitors, as well as themed items throughout the year. She has also made more than 750 face masks, many of which were given out through her LFL.
The LFL can hold around 10-15 adult books, said Smith, and 30-50 children’s books on the bottom. Her library is paired with a bench beside it, too, for visitors. It’s a convenient way to get books into the hands of children and youth.
Julia Wirths, 16, also of Treasure Lake, is known to frequent Smith’s LFL to supplement her visits to the DuBois Public Library and the school library.
“That’s why I love the LFL — it’s always ‘open’ and within walking distance,” she said. “While it obviously doesn’t have the inventory of a traditional library, its selection of books rotates and changes by the very definition.”
LFLs can also be less intimidating, said Wirths, for those who may want to avoid normal library procedures like return dates and renewals.
“Especially for someone who doesn’t read often or is stressed by the process of checking out a book,” she adds.
Smith doesn’t stop there with her love for books. She is also known to deliver them to other places in the area, such as local laundromats or other venues, where travelers tend to pick them up. She registers books at www.bookcrossing.com, and has discovered her books ending up in Hawaii and California.
In order to draw more interest to her LFL, Smith also made it a geocaching and “PokeStop” for Pokemon GO. So, those who are playing these treasure-hunt-related games often end up in her front yard, too. DuBois has hundreds of geocaching locations.
The LFL website has several resources for current stewards and those looking to join the movement, including tips on building and starting a library, an online store, free book giveaways, hosting fundraisers and programs. Visit www.littlefreelibrary.org.