Little Free Library offers families opportunities

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With the city being less than a year old and services such as a library a long way down the road, one Rio Communities' resident is hoping his idea will help bring the community together while giving everyone the opportunity to read.

Bobby Caldwell, one of the members of the Rio Communities Founders Group, is hoping residents in the new city will embrace and participate in Little Free Library, a network of uniquely-decorated boxes that holds donated books free for the taking.

The borrower is asked to replace the book he or she takes with another — strictly on the honor system — or to bring the book back after it has been read.

"I got the idea when the Founder's Group was looking for projects to do for the city," Caldwell said. "We had originally thought of getting the (Rural) Bookmobile service in the city, but I was told by the regional director that we were too close to the city of Belen so they couldn't include us in their routes, so I thought about other ways to bring a library into the city."

A library, Caldwell says, is an important part of any city, especially for the children.

"Every child should be involved in reading," he said. "Adults should also be a part of that. There's a lot to be said about books — they open up the world and it's just a way for people to meet, discuss books and take pride in having these Little Free Libraries."

After learning a bookmobile wouldn't be able to service the city, Caldwell wasn't going to take no for an answer. Instead, he went looking for another solution. During his search, he discovered the Little Free Library website.

The libraries, in waterproof boxes, have been erected in people's yards, along country roads, in public places across the nation and the world. They range from plain wooden boxes to structures that look like elaborate chalets to reproductions of red English phone booths.

Stewards, whose job is to tend the little library, make sure it's clean, not leaking and that it contains books.

Caldwell said to implement a Little Free Library in Rio Communities would only take a little elbow grease and community participation.

"The (city) council has indicated that they're interested in erecting one at city hall," Caldwell said. "So it's just a matter of getting a library, and there's a few ways that could be done — through sponsorship, by actually building it or purchasing one."

In order to expedite the process, Caldwell said the Founder's Group will probably buy a Little Free Library and will act as stewards. And if it looks like it will be a success, they'll ask various neighborhoods to sponsor a box and designate a steward to maintain the library.

"We would also leave it up to them whether they want to make their own, purchase one or even use it as a scout project," he said.

According to Caldwell, people can purchase a Little Free Library for as little as $160 or for more elaborate libraries, people can pay more. But, he said, the design of each library is unique to each neighborhood.

According to Little Free Library's website, www.LittleFreeLibrary.org, Todd Bol, of Hudson, Wisc., built a model of a one-room schoolhouse in 2009 as a tribute to his mother, a former school teacher who loved reading. He filled it with books and put it on a post in his frontyard. His neighbors and friends loved it, and he built several more and gave them away. Each one had a sign reading, "FREE BOOKS."

The first official Little Free Library was erected by a bike path in Madison, Wisc., in the summer of 2010. By January 2014, the total number of registered Little Free Libraries in the world is estimated to be between 10,000 to 12,000. There are four Little Free Libraries in New Mexico — in Albuquerque, Tijeras, Corrales and Carrizozo.

With so many Little Free Libraries that are registered on the network, Caldwell said people go to the website, and if they're traveling, can find the closest one available.

As for the proposed library for Rio Communities, Caldwell hopes the community will become involved and donate gently-used books. He's hoping to have one in place at city hall within the next six weeks.

"The stewards have to be vigilant," he said. "We don't want to be any type of censor, but we want reading materials appropriate for families. We certainly want books for children, novels, anything that people will enjoy reading."

Caldwell hopes this idea will spread throughout the community and get people talking to one another.

"This is something I think can work," he said. "What a great place to start this. It's something we can take ownership of, be proud of and it would be unique to Rio Communities."


-- Email the author at cgarcia@news-bulletin.com.