From the first time that Lisa Flaherty read about the Little Free Library program, she knew that was what she wanted to do in her community.
Four years later, she's responsible for three throughout Madison and Oneida counties.
Little Free Libraries are a national movement supported by donations and volunteers. The libraries look something like large mailboxes, but typically with a clear front panel to show off the books stocked inside. People are encouraged to take books home, or to leave books behind for others to enjoy in the future.
“I think these libraries are important for a few reasons — hopefully to encourage children to read, create parent and caregiver interaction by reading to or with their children and to get the books to the children,” shares Flaherty. “In some cases, it may be the only thing that is theirs.”
Flaherty was living in Bouckville when she heard about the program, and she wanted books to be available to children who may not have everyday access to books through a public library. She found that Madison Central School would be the ideal location, so she presented a proposal to the Oriskany Falls Rotary Club.
After it was approved, she hired a local contractor to build a Little Free Library and a reading bench to be placed between the school’s playgrounds and she filled it with books. That library opened at the school May 13, 2015. Children had access to the books inside at any time. They could keep a book indefinitely, bring it back or exchange it for another book. There were no rules as long as the children were reading.
With the funds available, there was enough money for a second library. Flaherty chose Knoxboro to be that second location because she saw the same issues there with children having access to books and because of the large Amish community, she said. That library and reading bench were placed in the center of town next to the basketball court.
Having since moved to Eaton, Flaherty also has opened up a third little library there as well. With the help of the community, Between Us Sisters in Munnsville, Literacy Coalition of Madison County, Pizza Hut and First Book, she now has books to keep all three libraries maintained and stocked.
According to its website, Little Free Library has book-sharing boxes placed at over 75,000 sites around the world. To learn more about the program, visit littlefreelibrary.org.