There is a tiny hut in Reykjavik packed with paperbacks; Nagasaki has a colorful cabinet stocked with manga; a book-filled box stands in São Paolo; and now, in Wellington, a replica of the city’s town hall houses reading materials for residents to share. It is just one of many micro libraries scattered across the area as part of the Lorain County Little Free Library Initiative.
Since the Little Free Library project’s inception in Wisconsin in 2009, the namesake structures have sprung up worldwide to foster a love of reading and sense of community, operating on a “take a book, leave a book” system. As of this year, the estimated number of libraries is 15,000 and growing. Now, thanks to a communitywide effort and nonprofit investment, little free libraries are flourishing in Lorain County.
Funded by a $30,000 grant from the Stocker Foundation — with an additional $2,000 from the Stocker Foundation Junior Board — to the Educational Service Center of Lorain County, the initiative aims to provide books where library access may be limited.
It got its start locally in 2013 when the Stocker Foundation’s board approved a proposal by Executive Director Patricia O’Brien, inspired by similar efforts elsewhere, to create local little free libraries. The board “overwhelmingly embraced the idea as a wonderful way to promote reading literacy and help children living throughout Lorain County develop a love of reading,” says Melanie Wilson, grants and office manager.
By the end of August, 65 libraries had been built and will eventually circulate more than 7,500 books collected by the foundation. The reading level of most books ranges from prekindergarten to fifth grade.
Local businesses and individuals donated time to the project. Students of the Lorain County Joint Vocational School, under the guidance of carpentry instructor Ron Gresco, built 30 libraries. Gresco himself contributed six specialty libraries resembling local landmarks, including the Amherst Train Depot and the Lorain Lighthouse. The Grafton Reintegration Center built 18 libraries, including bark-covered boxes that dot the Lorain County Metro Parks. Residents of Kendal at Oberlin created one in the retirement community’s woodshop, and Little Free Library Organization Co-founder and Executive Director Todd Bol donated another.
A steward responsible for general maintenance manages each library and ensures books are appropriate for young readers. Other support comes from volunteer book sorters, who help organize and distribute book donations.
Check out these books by Lorain County authors.
by Toni Morrison
In this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Lorain-born Nobel laureate Toni Morrison tells the harrowing story of an escaped slave living in antebellum Ohio. Her most critically acclaimed work, this powerful book was turned into a film starring Oprah Winfrey.
by Sherwood Anderson
The first critical success of Elyria businessman-turned-writer Sherwood Anderson, this collection of interrelated short stories explores the nature of small-town life in a fictionalized version of Clyde, where the author grew up.
“An Open Book: Coming of Age in the Heartland”
by Michael Dirda
In this memoir of his youth in Lorain, critic Michael Dirda revisits early experiences, both personal and intellectual, that shaped his development and influenced his celebrated career in literary journalism.