Books transport us to another world — another time or locale, real or imagined.
And reading keeps minds sharp and help young minds get stronger.
So what better way to build community, provide some escape while sheltering in place, and entertain and teach than sharing books?
Those are the goals behind the growing number of little libraries that Community Living Campaign has helped neighbors put up in their front yards around San Francisco. There are now 14 of these little libraries, where people can borrow books for free or donate books they no longer need — new or used — for others to enjoy.
Glenda Hope, in Cayuga, first read about the idea online and then began noticing them here and there but not in her neighborhood.
More Than Literature
“I thought it would be a great way both to share books but also to disseminate information about Cayuga Community Connectors,” she said. It’s proven to be both on her street, which sees a lot of foot traffic near the BART station.
One of our Community Connectors, Patti Spaniak, asked some other neighbors if they’d like to host a little library in front of their homes, and CLC and the San Francisco Public Library provided the libraries. Then, we bought art kits from Etsy and made it a neighborhood project to decorate the boxes before installing them.
For the box in front of Spaniak’s house, installed in 2018, they hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony. It included a community reading of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.
“It was so much fun for all of us!” she said. “We had children and older adults. We also read some funny pieces and kids read from children’s books.”
Books in Chinese, Tagalog
As the number of little libraries grew, the donations poured in by the boxful. Our participants also picked up books from the library. Donations are not only in English but also in Chinese, Tagalog and other languages.
“We received such wonderful donations, including current best sellers and books in mint condition,” Spaniak said.
Besides swapping books, the libraries have proven to bring joy to those who witness visitors. A few senior neighbors near the little libraries said they love looking out the window and seeing the action. They like seeing someone timidly looking at what books are available or dropping off new choices for others to enjoy.
Besides books, some people leave flyers about other activities or news in the neighborhood, Hope said. She even found some “thank you for this library” notes left in the box.
One said, “I have so enjoyed seeing what treasures I might find in this little library. I am moving away and will miss those finds. Maybe I will be able to put up my own box. Thank you for doing this.”
Thank you to everyone who installed little libraries in front of their homes for the neighborhood to enjoy:
- Ananda Joy Hart
- Rachel Erb
- Jane Murschen
- Glenda Hope
- Carmelita Lozano
- Kiki DeKat
- Joe and Linda Litehiser
- Christine Arena
- Lorraine and Daniel Gromet
- Jim and Kathryn Rato
- Bob Cappa
- Jacynth Roberts Family
- Ana Manzur-Allan
- Patti Spaniak and Tyler Davidson