One of the many pleasant artistic discoveries to be found in Central Oregon as you stroll its avenues and boulevards are the charming Little Free Library stands popping up around the region. These Hobbit-size hutches with their miniature shingled roofs and glass-fronted doors each house a small collection of hardback and paperback books to be borrowed for free by anyone.
This “take-a-book, leave-a-book” movement is part of a growing fraternity of booklovers who hope to insert a surprising sliver of old-school culture into Bend, Madras, Redmond, Tumalo, Sisters and more area communities looking for novel ways to bring reading to everyone.
Seen off side streets, cozy corners, beside building fronts, in green pocket parks and along shady sidewalks, these hard-to-resist kiosks welcome casual browsing with their colorful collections of fiction, short stories, self-help volumes, biographies, travel journals or intriguing hobby manuals of infinite varieties.
From Stephen King fright tales, puppy training tomes and Agatha Christie mysteries, to magic-trick instructionals and gardening guides, part of the fun is finding something you might normally overlook in a traditional library or local book store. Kids and adults of any age can stop by and pick up a used book or two and return them whenever they wish.
Little Free Library is a non-profit organization based out of Madison, Wisconsin and founded in 2009 that supports and encourages literacy in communities via these vibrant book boxes decorated in infinite varieties. Often mistaken for themed dollhouses, eccentric mailboxes or elaborate bird houses, their neighborhood literature stand stewardship locations are spreading across the United States with an infectious book borrowing frenzy.
As of 2014, the Little Free Library phenomenon has blossomed to over 16,000 units in 56 countries, with more sprouting up every day. Anyone can contact the organization to receive plans and tips for building their own repository and see maps of existing Little Free Libraries in their region and learn how to register their mini library on the official map.
(Photo by Jeff Spry)