Little free library unveiled

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It was a quick but heartfelt dedication ceremony Saturday afternoon, as nearly a dozen Rio Communities residents and supporters gathered in the city hall parking lot to welcome the newest addition to the county’s newest city.

Standing about 5-feet tall, a modest, glass-doored wooden box on a solid post is a Little Free Library filled to capacity with books for children and adults alike. With the wind whipping around everyone’s ears, Bobby Caldwell, one of the members of the Rio Communities Founder’s Group, dedicated the library to the community.

Julia M. Dendinger-News-Bulletin photo: Dedicating the Rio Communities Little Free Library to the public, city resident and a member of the Founder’s Group Bobby Caldwell said he hopes to see the small, book-laden boxes spread into all the neighborhoods of the county’s newest city.

“This is for the public. I want to see this grow into every neighborhood,” Caldwell said.

Shortly after the city incorporated in January, Caldwell began exploring ways to bring book borrowing to Rio Communities. He contacted the Rural Bookmobile service, but was told the city was too close to Belen. Undeterred, he continued looking for a way to bring a library to the city.

Having books and a library in a community is important for many reasons, Caldwell said. First and foremost, is promoting literacy among children. That goal was in line with the Little Free Library key strategy of promoting reading for children, literacy for adults and libraries around the world.

The concept of a Little Free Library is pretty well called out in its name. A small box, decorated in any number of ways — from Victorian gingerbread to British phone booth — is placed in an area accessible by the public, like a park or in front of city hall.

The libraries, in waterproof boxes, have been erected in people’s yards, along country roads, in public places across the nation and the world.

Then a dedicated group of people have to pledge to maintain the tiny structure and keep it stocked with books. Anyone, resident or not, is then able to come borrow and book. Once done, the hope is they will return it, bring another book and take a new one.

“But really, what’s the worst that can happen? Someone keeps a book,” Caldwell said with a chuckle and shrug.

The possibility of books not finding their way back to the little library is a reality, so Caldwell and the Founder’s Group have a solution — a stockpile of “spare” books in storage at city hall. Caldwell said the city was more than willing to set aside space for extra books and anyone who has books to spare can drop them off at city hall during regular business hours, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday.

And not only will the Rio Communities Little Free Library serve the residents of the city, it is open to anyone in the world. Each library is given a unique registration number, which is then registered online at www.littlefreelibrary.org.

Travelers can visit the site, input the city they will be visiting or passing through and pinpoint the nearest library to refresh their reading materials.

“So someone from Ohio can be out on the west mesa visiting and go on the Internet and look, and there we’ll be,” Caldwell said.

By having the Little Free Library in the community, Caldwell hopes it will spur dialogue and relationships between people as they discover common interests. He can imagine two readers, meeting at the small box and comparing recent literary conquests.

“One will say, ‘Oh, you’re interested in that topic? Me too. Have you read this?’ And there you go,” he said.

The Rio Communities Little Free Library — the first in Valencia County — joins nearly 15,000 libraries around the world.

According to Little Free Library’s website, 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. There are four Little Free Libraries in New Mexico — in Albuquerque, Tijeras, Corrales and Carrizozo.


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