A growing movement called the Little Free Library has caught on in western Colorado. Pea Green first established a neighborhood library; now Delta has one of its own. Virginia Harding enlisted the help of family members and friends to erect a box at 325 Leon Street that embraces Little Free Library's philosophy of "Take a book, leave a book."
Harding read an article about the movement not long after a Wisconsin man built the first book exchange as a tribute to his mother, a former school teacher who loved reading. He built a model of a one-room schoolhouse, filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard. His neighbors and friends loved it. He built several more and gave them away.
Harding was intrigued by the concept, and stuck it away in her mind. Recently, another article jogged her memory and prompted her to share the idea with her "lunch bunch" at the Delta Senior Center. Everyone agreed it was a great idea.
Harding went to the Internet to do some research and discovered the Little Free Library at Pea Green. She and friend Mary Dow took the short drive to check it out.
The Little Free Library website (littlefreelibrary.org) maintains a map of all library exchanges, as well as photos that serve as examples for others. Harding showed the photos to her son Tom, who volunteered to design and build a box. Harding painted the box with the help of Mary Dow and Doris Myers. Mitch Thomas provided a post, and John Thresher dug a hole and firmly planted the post.
"It was certainly a group effort," Harding said, "and a lot of fun."
The Little Free Library movement is intended to promote literacy and the love of reading. It also helps build a sense of community, as Harding has discovered. Quite a number of people walk on Leon Street, and they peek in the box as they pass by. "People have been using it," Harding said. "I'm glad when people take a book or two ... and they don't need to 'leave a book.' I've got lots of books."
Harding has been a prolific reader since she was in the first grade. The original Delta Library was quite small, with just one corner devoted to children's books. After reading virtually every book on those two shelves, Harding started in on adult books as a fourth grader. She took a systematic approach, beginning with the letter A. Librarian Anna Nutter looked over every book carefully, and if she didn't feel the subject matter was appropriate for a young girl she refused to let Harding check the book out. Nutter was Mary Dow's aunt, and instilled a love of reading in her as well.
The next time you find yourself in the neighborhood, stop by the Little Free Library and pick up some winter reading material. Little Library book exchanges function on the honor system -- everyone contributes to ensure there are always quality books inside.