Erik Burgess, Published August 12 2013
Neighborhood book nooks popping up across F-M
The free book depositories are about the size of a large dollhouse, and their purpose is simple: Take a book. Leave a book.
The Forum interviewed a north Fargo woman last fall who believed she had the only Little Free Library in the state.
Only a year later, Fargo-Moorhead will soon have at least six of the book depositories and the interest is growing, said Cher Hersrud of the FM Area Foundation.
Fargo resident Stephanie Christeson recently opened her own Little Free Library in her front yard at 906 S. University Drive.
“Even in this amount of time, those are not the books we started with,” she said. “It sort of takes on a life of its own.”
The wooden box in front of her house is painted a bold blue that makes it look almost like a miniature phone booth out of a Dr. Seuss tale. On the back is a giant bookworm reading “Composting 101.” Two butterflies whose wings are her two sons’ handprints are on top.
On one side of the box, there’s a giant yellow banana and a slogan penned by her 9-year-old son Ian: “Go bananas for books.”
“I thought it would be kind of funny,” said Ian, who loves books because they can go into more detail than movies.
Christeson said she got the idea for the tiny library while on family trips to Minneapolis and Duluth, Minn., where she spotted a few of the little reading boxes. They decided to make one of their own.
“We are a reading family. We love to read,” she said. “It’s like breathing to us.”
They started building the library last fall out of old scrap wood. Even the paint was left over from other projects, so there was no upfront cost, Christeson said. The final piece, the clasp to keep the door tightly closed, was found in her late father’s tool kit.
The family paid $35 to have the library registered and placed on a GPS map at littlefreelibrary.org, but Christeson said the backlog of new libraries is so great they were told there would be a five-week wait before her library was officially on the map.
She’s not alone in recently opening a Little Free Library.
The FM Area Foundation, TEDx and the United Way formed a partnership and opened a Little Free Library at the Nokomis Child Care Center, 618 23rd St. S., last Thursday.
The Catalyst Medical Center and Clinical Spa at 1800 21st Ave. S. has installed a Little Free Library near the center’s east driveway after purchasing the small red structure from the Little Free Libraries organization.
The tiny library idea was started by Wisconsinite Todd Bol, who was in Fargo last week speaking at Friday’s TEDx event. Bol created the first one for his mother, “And it just grew from there,” Hersrud said. Now there are thousands of little libraries worldwide, she said.
In the region, there are at least three Little Free Libraries in Lisbon, N.D., two in Grand Forks and one in Detroit Lakes, Minn., according to the group’s online map. Hersrud said she also knew of one in Moorhead at the 700 block of South 9th Street.
The Christeson library offers the family a fun way to interact with neighbors and passers-by along the busy street.
It has already caused cars to circle the block and passers-by to stop and ask about it, Christeson said. There’s a brightly painted yellow bench next to the books, making a sort of neighborhood reading nook.
“We purposefully made it very bright on this busy street,” she said. “And it worked.”
There’s no worry about people robbing the library because, as Christeson put it, “You can’t steal the books because they’re free.”
Typically, someone in the neighborhood acts as a steward to make sure no one vandalizes the tiny libraries, Hersrud said.
The Little Free Library website offers kits to build your own. Hersrud said at an event last week that six kits were donated to local families, so she expects more to pop up in the area soon.
Christeson said her son’s former kindergarten teacher is also building one. She said she’d love to see them pop up all around town.
“There’s buzz,” she said. “It’s really just a great, accessible project. I just love that there’s nothing required and you can build it any way you want.”
Where are they?
Locations of Little Free Libraries in Fargo:
- Nokomis Child Care Center, 618 23rd St. S.
- 906 S. University Drive
- 2901 3rd St. N.
- 1800 21st Ave. S.
- 700 block of South 9th Street
Readers can reach Forum reporter
Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518