By Matthew Nerger
Little Free Libraries have been popping up in locations all around Baton Rouge since 2013, from magnet schools to coffee shops to along the street in front of homes in Mid City. A book-sharing program started in Hudson, Wisconsin, near Minneapolis, Little Free Libraries are small, often house-shaped shelves full of books that anyone can take freely—as long as they leave a book of their own.
“It makes me happy to know there are people freely giving of one another,” says, Melanie Bennett, who stops by two libraries on her daily run. “Sure you can look up any book you want in the library, but this is like knowing someone from your community just enjoyed this book and wants to share it with you. It’s neighborly.” She says she often runs into strangers at the libraries, with whom she can talk about books and ask for recommendations.
Gabby Loubiere, owner if Brew Ha-Ha, has a large free library set up in her shop. Over the years, it has grown so much that she has boxes on the floor around her library for overflow books. Loubiere says she often sees customers start conversations near the library, more so than in her shops other corners.
“It provokes conversation,” she says. “It’s another we have to keep community.”
Loubiere often writes messages in the front of books she leaves in the library to contribute to the community factor of her library, and on every book that come into her library she places a sticker signed by her daughter Sophie, who came up with the idea for the library. She says the library gets a lot of traffic in her coffee shop, part because people often wait there to meet friends and love the convenience and selection of books where they are already, and part because parents often bring their children to the shop, and the library’s selection of children’s books keep them entertained.
“We put a book in there one week, and it’s gone the next,” she says.
In fact, she has plans to build a second library for the second room of her shop.
“This one is Sophie’s,” she says, “The new one will be for Lily, my younger daughter.”
Ray Mack, whose maintains the Garden District Civic Association’s library in his yard at the corner of Terrace and Camellia, says the library has been very popular in his neighborhood. He cites the variety of facilities near his neighborhood—City Park, Perkins Rowe, the Baton Rouge Gallery, and LSU—for both the popularity and the variety of the library.
He sometimes receives notes of gratitude in the library, which he takes inside to add to the Civic Association’s records. He says the idea of the library was always to build community and says the library facilitates gifts between community members. “One stranger giving to another,” he calls it. In fact, on the table on his patio where I spoke to him was an open copy of Flannery O’Connor’s Complete Stories, which his wife pulled from the library in their yard, and he told me every week after he finishes his copy of Science Magazine, he puts it out in the library, and when he goes to check back on the library, it’s always gone.
There are currently over fifteen Little Free Libraries in Baton Rouge, and 25,000 around the world. To find the nearest library to you, or to register one of your own, visit the Little Free Library website at www.littlefreelibrary.org, or simply take a closer look next time your walking around Baton Rouge.