If you are not familiar with the Little Library movement, here are the basics: The Little Free Library initiative encourages homeowners and business owners to put a structure on their property, fill it with books, and invite the community to stop by, drop off a book or take one away.
Little Libraries come in some standard shapes and sizes, but can also be constructed to meet the whimsy of the sponsor.
In Iowa City, Iowa, a UNESCO City of Literature and a Big Ten university town, it should surprise no one that there are a ton of Little Libraries. Before moving to Tallahassee in 2015, as I encountered Little Libraries on my walks, I began photographing them. The first series yielded a very successful line of photo cards available at the Prairie Lights Bookstore.
I confess that as much as I love them, I have never borrowed a book from a Little Library, nor shared one.These days my books tend to be delivered electronically. If not, they tend to be boring academic texts unsuitable for Little Library sharing. So why do I love the Little Libraries of Iowa City?
I guess my love for the Little Libraries comes first from my appreciation of their purpose. I appreciate the idea of promoting literacy and the community feeling of welcoming both your neighbors and bookish strangers to be part of an anonymous chain of readers of books passed from one person to another. Even if the Little Library stands on the very periphery of one’s property, the act of welcoming a stranger to your home to participate in a shared activity, a person endorsed merely by their implicit assertion that “I like books, therefore I am good” is refreshing in a time when stand-your-ground shootings and fear of terror attacks send messages of exclusion and suspicion.
But this is a photography blog, so it is no surprise that I also find the look of Little Libraries intriguing. I love their distinctiveness; some have themes, like the grief library outside of the funeral home. Some welcome doggies with treat baskets or bowls of water. Some promote hobbies or interests, like the Boy Scout Little Libraries.
I particularly love the Little Libraries that have seen use – and show it! Weathered and beaten, but still serving as a shelter for the written word and a home for dreams, fantasies, life stories, thrillers, self-help, and escape.
These photos are from my first series featuring the Little Libraries of Iowa City.