One-room schoolhouses, log cabins, barns or anything else people think up. These are examples of the many creative Little Free Libraries people have made around the world, and many students have probably seen them around Madison. For those who do not know much about the Madison-based organization, the group’s documentary, “Because It’s Small,” will premiere today at the Union South Marquee.
“The film that’s going to be showing describes all the different uses and varieties of little libraries, and how they can have an impact on children, on adults, on even real estate sales, and economic development,” said Rick Brooks, co-founder of the organization. “It’s a wonderful introduction to this movement that has just exceeded everybody’s expectations.”
The movement Brooks is referencing is the expansion of the Little Free Library project, which originated in other co-founder Todd Bol’s front yard. The two met at a workshop Brooks was teaching, started talking and eventually came up with the idea for the organization.
Bol built the first little library as “a model of a one-room schoolhouse that he could fill with books,” Brooks said. “He built it as a memorial to his mother, who had just passed away. She was a teacher, and she just loved reading and books. So he put it up in his front yard, and it was so popular that many of his friends and neighbors asked if he would build one for them. There was no way that he could build enough of them because it was of so much interest.”
From there, the project moved to Madison, where the town embraced the project, and it has since spread across the world: Little Free Libraries are in 34 countries, with 20 little libraries in Ghana alone, according to Brooks.
“We began to understand that little libraries could be a gathering point for people with lots of different interests,” Brooks said. “We brought one to Madison and so many people saw it that they wanted some. The bottom line is that our mission is to promote a sense of community, to promote reading for children, literacy for adults and libraries around the world.”
Some clubs on campus have already gotten involved with the organization, and the workers for Little Free Library are hoping for even more involvement.
“There are a lot of different groups on campus that have expressed an interest,” Brooks said. “We are looking for groups that might want to sponsor special themes for libraries. For example, we would really like to find a group that would sponsor a library that’s built to look like Aldo Leopold’s [prior UW professor] shack when he wrote ‘A Sand County Almanac.’ We’d like that to be an environmental education library, with books all about nature, sustainability and the environment. We also would like to do one little library to honor Gaylord Nelson. We’re looking for sponsors for those, and there are many other topics that student organizations and alumni could sponsor.”
Ultimately, those at Little Free Library want more people around Madison to be aware of the organization and get inspired by the cause, and the documentary is designed to accomplish these goals. If people cannot attend today’s showing of the documentary, there is another one Nov. 18 at the Pyle Center at 2 p.m.
“I want [audiences] to understand how a simple idea can catch on, and make a difference, if only because it’s a positive idea that can attract attention,” Brooks said. “In our case, the message that we want them to get is that people can be attracted to something for the very simple reason that it is a good thing, amidst information overload, politics, economic downturns, wars and all that kind of stuff.
“This is something that people can start on a very small scale and get a good feeling about. We’ve found that we can share common interests just by taking a book, returning a book or giving a book. The giving part seems to be the most attractive. People just really love something that simple.”
“Because It’s Small” will play at the Union South Marquee at 4:30 p.m. today. Admission is free. For more information, visit littlefreelibrary.org.