You’ve seen them as you’ve walked or driven by: a miniature one-room schoolhouse atop a wooden post on a front lawn or a simple hutch attached to a building. No matter the design, the boxes are filled with books, and you are invited to take one. The nonprofit Little Free Library, based in Hudson, Wisconsin, fosters book exchanges with accessible boxes of books so that neighbors can grab a book and share their own.
Since sheltering in place due to COVID-19 began in March, however, many people who share books this way recognized a new opportunity. Some have added canned goods, homemade masks, craft supplies for kids, even toilet paper to their book-sharing boxes.
“It’s part of the DNA of our stewards to be helping their neighbors and their communities,” Greig Metzger ’82, the nonprofit’s executive director, said, referring to the term for Little Free Library’s volunteers.
Metzger grew up in a family of readers, so his move to Little Free Library last summer seemed a natural fit. His previous job had been as executive director of a Twin Cities organization that tackled food insecurity and served thousands each month. What is transpiring with the Little Free Library allows Metzger to draw from both experiences.
“It is full circle for me,” Metzger said. He sees his job as not only about connecting neighbors, but also marshaling local volunteer efforts to deliver resources from where there’s plenty to where there is not enough.
In a recent PBS interview, Metzger was asked about the new twist on the book-sharing boxes, as was Little Free Library steward Heather Butts ’94. Metzger explained: “The Little Free Library network gives the physical opportunity for people to connect and support each other as a community, even though they’re not necessarily connecting physically right next to one another. So it’s been great to see this unfold.”
The nonprofit has posted a map where sharing boxes can be found, as well as guidance on how stewards can make sure they are protecting themselves — and those who benefit from their generosity — and not spread the virus.