Take a Book, Leave a Book

0
208
A Little Free Library on 8203 Chancery Court, located at a private residence.

By Amanda M. Socci

On October 18, 2018, Todd Bol, originator of the little free library idea and movement, passed away. The nonprofit he founded, Little Free Library. Ltd., is asking owners of little free libraries to honor Todd’s memory by placing silver or white ribbons on their little libraries. Zebra hopes to honor Todd’s legacy as well by sharing with readers a background on his heartwarming project and the unique ways in which little free library owners in Alexandria have followed his original mission.

Brief History: Little Wooden Book Boxes Become Little Free Libraries

In 2009, Todd Bol repurposed a garage door into a small wooden book box with a see-through door held together with metal hinges. He had just lost his job and decided to do a minor woodworking project while he set up his home office in preparation for his next job. Todd built the small book box to resemble a tiny one-room schoolhouse, mounting at the top a simple memorial plaque, “Esther Bol Memorial Legacy.” The plaque let people know that Todd was dedicating the box to his late mother, a teacher who loved to read. Todd mounted the box to a pole, filed it with books, and put it on his front lawn in Hudson, Wisconsin.

In May 2010, Todd hosted a garage sale and noticed that people were more interested in his charming wood schoolhouse book box than the things he was trying to sell. Todd saw how the people acted towards the box – they gazed upon it as if it were a newborn. The people of Wisconsin had never seen anything like this before; they were drawn to the charisma of the wooden book box from the very beginning.

Todd felt he was on to something and decided to build and give away a bunch of boxes to friends and family. He also talked to his partner, Rick Brooks, about building more boxes. It wasn’t the physical construction of the boxes that gave Todd satisfaction, however. From the moment he witnessed his neighbors huddled together in his front yard mesmerized at the schoolhouse-themed wooden book box, Todd knew there was an organic brewing of social interactions that he wanted to share with others.

Todd called his homemade wooden book boxes “little free libraries” (LFLs). The popularity of little free libraries spread to neighboring cities, states, and even other countries, and in four short years after he put his original LFL on his front lawn in 2009, Todd turned his concept into a legally recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Little Free Library, Ltd. (LittleFreeLibrary.org). In 2015, freelance writer Margaret Aldrich wrote and published, “The Little Free Library Book” chronicling little free libraries as a social movement, capturing the history, essence of the project, and photographs of Instagram-worthy LFLs located in diverse places throughout the world.

Since then, LFLs have proliferated exponentially! According to the nonprofit’s official website, as of 2018, people have established and registered 75,000 LFLs throughout the entire United States and in 85 countries!

The Concept: What is a Little Free Library?

When people talk about Todd Bol’s original idea, they immediately use his terminology, little free library, but do not always follow the protocol to register their wooden structures. That is part of the beauty of Todd Bol’s vision. He purposely avoided creating a for-profit company, which would surely have made it a priority to crack down on trademark infringement by people using the free little library name improperly. If that would have been the case, it is doubtful as many wooden book boxes would be in existence today.

Instead, Todd made a conscious decision to prioritize human connections over profit by creating a non-profit because, as he told a Wisconsin reporter, “The real key of the Little Free Libraries is … meet[ing] neighbors through [little] libraries. It’s an extension of their front porch and [books are] the currency.”

People have carried on Todd Bol’s mission in their own unique ways, sometimes registering their wooden book boxes and sometimes not. Though not all wooden book boxes are official LFLs, it is evident that people everywhere love the concept of leaving books for others to take and enjoy with the same end result – building community connections and friendships one book at a time.

Todd’s nonprofit organization, Little Free Library, Ltd., owns a trademark to the term ‘little free library,’ which means only people who pay the $40 fee to register their wooden book box may use the term ‘little free library’ to describe what they own. Any person who does not pay the $40 fee may still own and display a wooden book box, but must refer to it using different terminology, though its purpose remains the same. (Out of deference to Todd Bol and his vision, Zebra will honor the trademarks and distinguish between wooden book boxes and little free libraries. Readers are encouraged to do the same.)

Little free libraries and wooden book boxes are typically small, sturdy, weather-resistant structures made out of wood. For the most part, they are small, resemble ornate birdhouses, and have the storage space to fit soft and hardcover books. They may be homemade or professionally pre-built and ordered online. The nonprofit’s website provides a plethora of construction instructions and guidance for those who wish to build their own or purchase.

Little free libraries and wooden book boxes have the space to store roughly 50 small hardcover books and at a minimum, are equipped with a door on hinges that may be easily opened and closed. The Little Free Library, Ltd. encourages people to register their free little libraries, but does not require it. Those who choose to register their wooden book boxes receive a metal plaque with the inscription “Little Free Library” and a unique numerical identifier, known as a charter number. People who own officially registered LFLs have the option to add their LFL to an online map and connect with others through private groups.

It is common to see the structures mounted on poles, visibly displayed outside the homes of private individuals, and stocked with assorted books for varying audiences. The purpose of LFLs is to encourage passersby to “take a book, leave a book.” Those who establish LFLs and wooden book boxes on their property are referred to as stewards and are the ones responsible for replenishing books as needed and ensuring books are available for all ages. Stewards are in charge with the care and general maintenance of their boxes. It is also perfectly acceptable to take books without leaving books.

Little Free Libraries in Alexandria

Over time, Todd Bol’s original idea has remained staunch in peoples’ hearts, though the execution has undergone considerable changes and creative direction. For example, today, it is not uncommon to see LFLs located indoors or maintained by businesses and groups. It has also become an accepted practice to include little treats inside, such as bookmarks. Many people have further expanded the concept by offering benches, individual seating, and peaceful garden décor and landscapes to encourage people to take books and sit down in relaxation to read on their premises.

In the Alexandria portion of Fairfax County and in Alexandria City, both registered and unregistered little free libraries and wooden book boxes abound. The following is an attempt to encapsulate the beautiful diversity of the wooden book boxes and little free libraries found throughout the county and the city. Though it is not an exhaustive list, it is a great way to start unearthing these hidden literary gems that are planted along our everyday paths, adorning our neighborhoods, waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. (Zebra was able to track a total of 74 wooden book boxes and LFLs in all of Alexandria. The Alexandria portion of Fairfax County has 39, with the 22308 zip code leading the way with a whopping 15! Alexandria City has 35, with zip code 22301 holding steady at 10.)

Alexandria: Fairfax County Wooden Book Boxes and LFLs

The Alexandria zip codes within Fairfax County are: 22060, 22303, 22306, 22307, 22308, 22309, 22310, 22312, and 22315. Readers may enjoy reading about the distinguishing characteristics of some of these wooden book boxes and little free libraries!

22060 (1 library)

(73)

8990 Woodlawn Road
  • 8990 Woodlawn Road
  • Located on the property near the Pillar Church of Alexandria
  • Created by Alexandria Friends Meeting (AFM) at Woodlawn, a religious group celebrating the Quaker faith
  • To visit this LFL, visitors must enter through the Pillar Church of Alexandria from route 1, pass it, and enter the traffic circle.
  • According to Bill Hecht, registered LFL steward, AFM established their LFL in 2014 in order to “be of service to the local community … to share books with people who have little or no access to books … [and to service] … some walkers with the new POHE [Potomac Heritage network of] trail[s].”

22303 (1 library)

(57)

3700 Burgundy Road
  • 3700 Burgundy Road
  • Created by and located on the property of the Burgundy Farm Country Day School

22306 (4 libraries)

(22)

6613 Oak Drive
  • 6613 Oak Drive
  • Located at a private residence

(25)

 

7510 Milway Dr.
  • 7510 Milway Dr.
  • Located at a private residence
  • LFL steward Debbie Germosen created a successful GoFundme campaign to assist with efforts to create and maintain this LFL; raised $550

(26)

7609 Range Road
  • 7609 Range Road
  • Located at a private residence

(27)

  • 7904 Candlewood Drive
  • Located at a private residence

22307 (4 libraries)

(23)

2406 Mary Baldwin Drive
  • 2406 Mary Baldwin Drive
  • Located at a private residence
  • Two libraries at this location
  • One large LFL intended to hold adult books, and one smaller LFL intended to hold children’s’ books
  • LFL steward Katie Zambito decided to create an additional LFL after seeing the success of the first

(24a)

6500 Princeton Drive
  • 6500 Princeton Drive
  • Located at a private residence

(71)

  • 2000 Marthas Road
  • Located at a private residence

22308 (15 libraries)

(30)

7920 West Boulevard Drive
  • 7920 West Boulevard Drive
  • Located at a private residence

(31)

7719 Fort Hunt Road
  • 7719 Fort Hunt Road
  • Located on the property of Tauxemont Cooperative Preschool

(32-a and 32-b)

  • 1602 Revere Drive
  • Located at a private residence
  • Unusual wooden book box; no see-through windows

(33)

2405 Apple Hill Road
  • 2405 Apple Hill Road
  • Located at a private residence
  • Dedicated “In memory of William H. Hamilton”

(34)

8203 Chancery Court
  • 8203 Chancery Court
  • Located at a private residence

(35)

2011 Rampart Drive
  • 2011 Rampart Drive
  • Located at a private residence
  • Established in May of 2016
  • According to LFL steward Larico Harley, he created his LFL with a “desire to give back to my neighborhood [after moving to the area in Sept. 2015].”

(36)

1911 Stirrup Lane
  • 1911 Stirrup Lane
  • Located at a private residence
  • Two libraries at this location
  • LFL library steward Liz Schroeder created one LFL and then a wooden book box

(38)

  • 1203 Potomac Lane
  • Located at a private residence

(39)

  • 1128 Alden Road
  • Located at a private residence

(40)

  • 8729 Thomas J. Stockton Parkway
  • Located at a private residence

(41)

8832 Linton Lane
  • 8832 Linton Lane
  • Located on the property of Fort Hunt Elementary School
  • Created by the Fort Hunt Elementary School PTA
  • Extra-large LFL opens on both sides

(58)

  • 8610 Culver Place
  • Located at a private residence

(59-a and 59b)

  • 1500 Shenandoah Road
  • Created by the Hollin Hall Senior Center and A Child’s Place at Hollin Hall Preschool and located on their premises
  • Only one of two wooden book boxes (and LFLs) located inside the building

(60)

1701 Paul Spring Parkway
  • 1701 Paul Spring Parkway
  • Located at a private residence

22309 (3 libraries)

(42)

  • 8642 Braddock Avenue
  • Located at a private residence
  • Created in April 2018

(43)

3814 Colonial Avenue
  • 3814 Colonial Avenue
  • Located at a private residence
  • Two libraries at this location
  • One large LFL intended to hold adult books, and one smaller LFL intended to hold children’s’ books
  • LFL steward Jennifer Miller decided to create an additional LFL after seeing the success of the first
  • According to Jennifer, she had seen LFLs in the neighborhood and noted, “it seemed like a good idea [to create one].” She also knows about the value of reading and wanted to “create a sense of community.”

22310 (7 libraries)

(28)

  • 4213 Shannon Hill Road
  • Located at a private residence

(44-a and 44-b)

5619 Clermont Drive
  • 5619 Clermont Drive
  • Located at a private residence
  • Bears an inscription “Erin’s Legacy,” to honor the passing of Erin, the 21-year old daughter of original LFL steward, Trish Kimminau
  • Trish transferred ownership to Andrew Johns, who also experienced the loss of his daughter
  • Trish was happy to share her story as a means of keeping her daughter’s memory alive. As per Trish, “Erin went to Montana to protest the building of an oil pipeline. Driving back, she fell asleep in the car. There are so many stories about the car passengers. So many little stories. One of the many ways we sought to honor her [Erin] was through the little library. She loved to read. She loved life.”

(45)

  • 5810 LaVista Drive
  • Located at a private residence

(46)

5915 High Meadow Road
  • 5915 High Meadow Road
  • Located in front of a row of townhouses with the intention of group ownership
  • Established in 2013
  • According to LFL steward Patricia Mahoney, she was the “president of Runnymeade Homeowners Association at the time, and right away I thought it was a fantastic idea for the HOA to have one [LFL].” The board agreed with Patricia’s proposal, purchased the LFL kit, established it, and dubbed it “Runnymeade Community Library.”
  • Though this LFL does not have a specific street address associated with it, it is located near 5915 High Meadow Road on the High Meadow Island, a strip of land between High Meadow Road and the state and service roads.

(50)

6315 Beulah Street
  • 6315 Beulah Street
  • Located at the premises of Franconia Community Church
  • The church celebrated the establishment of its wooden book box with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
  • Unique design appears to be a small replica of the church

(51)

  • 5002 Treetop Lane
  • Located at a private residence
  • “Lynn’s Little Library”

(52a and 52b)

  • 6615 Cottonwood Drive
  • Located at a private residence
  • Unusual design; completely covered with no see-through windows and covered with chalkboard panels

22312 (2 libraries)

(47)

  • 6101 Larstan Drive
  • Located at a private residence

(54)

4116 Braddock Rd.
  • 4116 Braddock Road
  • Located on the property of Parklawn Elementary School
  • Donated to the school by original LFL steward, Maureen Ratliff, a retired media specialist who worked at the school from 2003 – 2016

22315 (2 libraries)

(48)

6509 Tassia Dr.
  • 6509 Tassia Drive
  • Located at a private residence
  • Distinguished by its location; this is one of only a few LFLs that requested and received permission from the HOA to erect a LFL in front of a townhouse
  • The LFL steward Jennifer Chriss decorated the exterior of her LFL with whimsical Darth Vader literacy posters

(49)

  • 7820 Welch Court
  • Located at a private residence

Alexandria City Wooden Book Boxes and LFLs

The Alexandria City zip codes are: 22301, 22302, 22304, 22305, 22311, 22312, and 22314. Readers may enjoy reading about the distinguishing characteristics of some of these wooden book boxes and little free libraries!

22301 (10 libraries)

(01)

1511 Russell Rd
  • 1511 Russell Road
  • Located at a private residence

(02)

  • 2400 Russell Road
  • Created by Alexandria Country Day School and located off-campus at the street level

(03)

  • 12 Mt. Ida Avenue
  • Located at a private residence
  • “Marilyn’s free library”

(04)

221 E. Windsor Ave.
  • 221 E Windsor Avenue
  • Located at a private residence
  • Renee Adams is the registered LFL steward, but credits Elli Ludwigson, Ricko Aslanian, and Kim-Anh Aslanian with co-ownership and maintenance.
  • Created in 2013
  • Renee created her LFL as a natural extension of her already successful poetry fence, which she created for the reading and pondering pleasures of her neighborhood.
  • Renee’s efforts were recognized in the Washington Post newspaper!

(05)

  • 417 E. Custis Avenue
  • Located at a private residence
  • Unusual design; like a boxy kitchen cabinet

(06)

  • 408 E. Monroe Avenue
  • Located at a private residence

(07)

12 East Rosemont Ave.
  • 12 East Rosemont Avenue
  • Located at a private residence

(08)

  • 110 Bellaire Road
  • Located at a private residence

(09)

10 West Alexandria Ave.
  • 10 West Alexandria Avenue
  • Located at a private residence
  • Has a Facebook page

(64a and 64b)

  • 208 E. Bellafonte Avenue
  • Located at a private residence

22302 (6 libraries)

(10)

  • 730 Timber Branch Drive
  • Located at a private residence
  • “Audrey’s little library”

(11)

813 E. Timber Branch Parkway
  • 813 E. Timber Branch Parkway
  • Located at a private residence
  • According to LFL steward Eileen Grant, she thought it was a great idea to create a LFL because, “they are totally cute and besides, I’ve got a million books in my house [that I want to give away].”
  • Created in 2016
  • Hand-painted with care and attention to detail by Eileen’s sister, Fairfax-based visual artist Kathy Dache, whose artistic murals appear in various Alexandria establishments including a half woman, half tree mural located at the Old Town Sport and Health exercise club.
  • The hand-painted pictures reflect both Eileen and Kathy’s varied tastes including dogs, Scottish dances, and nature.

(14)

  • 2511 Davis Avenue
  • Located at a private residence
  • The LFL at this location is not listed on the nonprofit’s website, so very little is known about it. However, according to LFL steward Eileen Grant from the 813 E. Timber Branch Parkway location, the stewards at 2511 Davis Avenue have been “doing this for 6 years in!” suggesting that this particular LFL may probably be the oldest LFL in all of Alexandria, with a likely creation date of 2012!

(65)

2911 Cameron Mills Road
  • 2911 Cameron Mills Road
  • Located on the property of Trinity United Methodist Church
  • Design resembles a church

(66)

  • 1500 W. Braddock Road
  • Created by Everly Wheatley Funeral Home and located at its premises

(67)

  • 603 W. Windsor Avenue
  • Located at a private residence

22304 (3 libraries)

(29)

332 N. Pickett St.
  • 332 N. Pickett Street
  • Located at a private residence
  • “The Reading Turtle, in memory of Chalmers H. Marquis, Jr.”
  • LFL steward Brian Marquis created a custom logo featuring a turtle, dubbed his LFL “The Reading Turtle,” and dedicated it to his late father to commemorate his many years in public broadcasting.
  • According to Brian, “Without the work of him [my father, Chalmers H. Marquis, Jr.] and many others, there would have been no Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood or many other TV shows that helped teach millions of children to read. So we thought a LFL was a fitting tribute to his lifelong work in public broadcasting.”

(62)

498 N. Latham St.
  • 498 N. Latham Street
  • Located at a private residence
  • “Latham Crossing”
  • According to wooden book box steward Sissy Walker, she believes the concept of creating little book drops to allow exchanges between people is “very important.” She did research on the little free library movement for a year and chose to create her wooden book box, “Latham Crossing” without registering it.
  • Sissy is happy with the physical construction of her wooden book box. “A furniture maker drew up the plans and made it. My husband finished it and installed it.”
  • Sissy recounted how this seemingly simple project became difficult when it came time to create the blueprints and dig a hole for the post. On her property, Sissy encountered “river cobbles [stones, which caused a] problem in the ground.”

(68)

  • 608 N. Pickett Street
  • Located at a private residence

22305 (6 libraries)

(12)

  • 11 Groves Avenue
  • Located at a private residence

(13)

522 Monticello Blvd.
  • 522 Monticello Boulevard
  • Located on the property of the Westminster Presbyterian Church
  • Created in November of 2017
  • The original LFL steward is Fiona Donovan, a student who is now in 9th grade.
  • Fiona obtained community support and created this LFL as an 8th grader in 2017, as part of her Girl Scout silver award.

(61)

  • 719 North Overlook Drive
  • Located at a private residence

(63)

  • 3205 Circle Hill Road
  • Located at a private residence

(69)

620 North Overlook Dr.
  • 620 North Overlook Drive
  • Located on the property of Beverley Park
  • Created by a Girl Scout troop

(70)

  • 420 Argyle Drive
  • Located at a private residence

22311 (1 library)

(53-a and 53-b)

5466 Calhoun Avenue
  • 5466 Calhoun Avenue
  • Located at a private residence
  • LFL steward Lee Johnson left a notebook for visitors to leave comments

22314 (9 libraries)

(15)

  • 604 South View Terrace
  • Located at a private residence

(16-a and 16-b)

119 Moncure Drive
  • 119 Moncure Drive
  • Located at a private residence
  • LFL steward Brian Vinson offers beautiful postage stamp bookmarks inside the LFL

(17)

  • 25 E Taylor Run Parkway
  • Located at a private residence

(18)

1011 Vernon Street
  • 1011 Vernon Street
  • Located at a private residence

(19)

  • 213 South Pitt Street
  • Located at a private residence

(20)

524 S Pitt Street
  • 524 S Pitt Street
  • Located at a private residence
  • Unusual position; the door of the LFL opens away from the street

(21-a and 21-b)

  • 1501 Cameron Street
  • Located on the property of Jefferson-Houston Elementary School
  • Offers an expansive seating area, likely intended for an entire class of students to visit the LFL at the same time

(55)

  • 322 Tancil Court
  • Located on the property of the Ruby Tucker Family Center, which is a building operated by the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority

(56-a and 56-b)

1800 Limerick Street
  • 1800 Limerick Street
  • Located on the property of Alexandria Renew Enterprises
  • Only one of two LFLs (and wooden book boxes) from Alexandria that are located inside the building
  • Communications Programming Specialist Kayla Yingst is the steward of this LFL.
  • According to Kayla, Alexandria Renew Enterprises CEO Karen Pallansch “wanted to create a little free library that reflected what AlexRenew does – clean our customers’ used water. We came up with the idea of a beautiful blue, clean waterdrop. I partnered with our maintenance team to create a structure for our Environmental Center educational lobby.”
  • The unique design of this stunning LFL is a custom-built tear drop, built by maintenance team staff Steve Lee and Kenny Williams, who have serviced the company for a combined 54 years!

What’s Next?

Not all neighborhoods and communities within the Alexandria portion of Fairfax County and Alexandria City have the resources or leadership to establish little free libraries or wooden book boxes to serve their residents. However, one thriving community that is on the cusp of creating multiple registered LFLs is Cameron Station, located in the West End neighborhood of Alexandria City.

David Thorpe and his wife Stephanie, (72) realtors with Thorpe Homes from Re/Max Allegiance, live in Cameron Station and work there. They are knowledgeable of the housing market of townhouses and condominiums and well-versed on the legalities and difficulties in obtaining approval from the homeowner’s associations to implement even the slightest change. On a personal level, David operates a social Facebook group within his community and asked about the possibility of creating LFLs within Cameron Station. Resounding notes of approval from the Facebook group members prompted David and Stephanie into action.

They decided they wanted to go ahead and fund the creation of multiple LFLs to be placed within Cameron Station. Today, they are working feverishly with attorneys at the Law Offices of Michael Johnson to get those approvals as soon as possible. According to David, “I think it’s a fantastic idea [to create a LFL!” David and Stephanie are enthusiastic about getting this done sooner rather than later. They promised to send to The Zebra press releases with details in advance of their ribbon-cutting ceremony.