Three years ago, a Madison, Wisconsin entrepreneur latched onto a way to honour his late mother, a school teacher with a love of the written word: Todd Bol built a miniature school house outside his home and filled it with books for people to borrow. The idea caught on and in the last two years the non-profit Little Free Library has expanded to 45 states and dozens of countries, including Canada, Ghana, England and Germany. Its goal: to encourage reading and literacy and build communities.
The success of the Little Free Library movement comes down to a desire for personal connection, especially in a time when much communication takes place via text, Facebook and Twitter, according to Dana Cuff, director of the urban affairs think tank cityLAB: "The small-scale sharing of something that was special to you seems like a great version of borrowing sugar and bringing tomatoes to your neighbor. It helps you make connections to people who live around you."
The Little Free Library isn't the only attempt at innovative communal book-lending. A few months ago, we told you about John Locke, a New York architect who installed small libraries in two New York City phone booths, with limited success: one of the two libraries was emptied of books, and the shelving itself was taken. Before you lose hope in humanity, it turns out the phone company was forced to remove the shelving to service the phone. John has now designed a shelving unit that allows phone techs to do their job - and plans to install two new phone-booth libraries next week. He's also found a manufacturer who can make custom phone-booth shelving for anyone who wants to introduce the concept to their community: "I would love it if people could make it happen in their neighbourhood - it would be great to see it evolve."
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