Take a Book, Leave a Book
statewide ‘Little Library’ project comes to Eau Claire in big way
In Eau Claire’s Boyd Park, there’s a little wooden box affixed to a post. It looks like a tiny, rustic cabin. The small wooden sign on top asks you to “Take a Book, Leave a Book,” and if you open the front door, you’ll find a petite collection of gently used books, ranging from crime novels and gardening manuals to the epic works of Dr. Seuss. Local people have left books in there. And you can take one ... as long as you leave one.
The little book box is the city’s first “Little Free Library,” and it’s part of a statewide program started by Todd Bol of Hudson and Rick Brooks of Madison. Similar structures can be found in communities across Wisconsin (and beyond), each of them encouraging people to come together, connect, and share a common goal. That goal can be anything from simple book-swapping to literacy promotion to a notable increase in water-cooler style conversation amongst neighbors. Bol and Brooks (and everyone else behind the program) aim to achieve all that and more.
Started in 2009 after Bol made one for his own yard, the Little Free Library program seems to have exploded this past summer. People and organizations can purchase a library from LittleFreeLibrary.org (available in styles ranging from “Amish Barn Wood Cabin” to “Original Art Deluxe”) or get plans to build their own. The Boyd Park library was donated to the city after Bol approached Volume One Magazine, who then referred him to the Eastside Hill Neighborhood Association.
Why did Eau Claire get so lucky? Well, Bol’s said he’s looking to spread the project across the state, and Eau Claire seemed like a terrific outpost for this region. It doesn’t hurt that Bol’s son attends UW-Eau Claire and works downtown. Apparently, it was the younger Bol’s idea to build one for Eau Claire.
Bol’s son built it using 100+-year-old wood from a barn in Ontario, Wis., wood from his grandfather’s barn, and repurposed metal. The doorknob is an antique screwdriver handle. Each mini-library is just as unique. Some notable ones have been based on a canoe, a bee hive, a Swiss Chalet, and a Frank Lloyd Wright design.