Neighbors bond over Little Free Library's surprises
Eric and Victoria Miller built the Little Free Library next to a bike path near their home in Powell. The books within have a 50 percent turnover rate every week, the Millers say. Buy This Photo
After years working in the library services field, Victoria and Eric Miller know how books can bring people together.
A desire to connect and a love for reading inspired them to build Powell's first Little Free Library.
The small book box looks like a miniature wooden house, with a glass door that swings easily open. Roughly the size of a microwave, it sits atop a post just off a bike path along Presidential Parkway in Powell, just behind the Millers' residence.
It can hold about two dozen books and operates based on a simple premise: Take a book, leave a book.
Passersby can browse the mini-collection and take any book, at any time, with no library card, no charge and no expectation that the book be returned.
Those looking to unload some old books or share a favorite read are free to leave whatever they wish in the library at any time.
And they have, the Millers said. The collection sees up to a 50 percent turnover every week, and new books are added frequently by anonymous donors.
Browsing the book box has become an unexpectedly social experience for walkers who stop to look, they said.
"It gives people a reason to strike up a conversation," Mr. Miller said. "It's amazing to see people who have been neighbors for years, who barely know each other, get to talking over books and finally getting to know each other a little."
The Little Free Library's small selection is by design, removing one of the biggest obstacles for would-be readers.
"When you have instant access to any book online or at the bookstore, how do you decide what to read next?" Mrs. Miller said. "This opens the door to those serendipitous discoveries when you pick up a book you might otherwise have never considered."
Less than two months after installation, the box has held books from every genre and for every age group.
On any given day, the selection ranges from classics to self-help to picture books.
Two books that recently caught the eye of Mrs. Miller were wildly different: a Gilligan's Island-themed cookbook -- autographed by the actress who played Mary Ann, no less -- and an Army field manual on outdoor survival.
The best part about the Little Free Library, Mr. Miller said, is the surprises.
"You don't know what you're going to see until you open it up," he said. "It's like getting a little present every time."
It's been a hit with readers of every age, he said, as the neighborhood kids can't wait see what they find next in the Little Free Library.
The concept was invented in 2009 by a book lover in Wisconsin and has started to catch on nationwide.
The official project website, littlefreelibrary.org, has information and resources for anyone interested in installing one in their own neighborhood.
Anyone can start their own Little Free Library. Central Ohio currently boasts two others, in Clintonville and Westerville.
The Millers hope theirs is just the first of many in the Powell community.
For now, residents can talk about Powell's first Little Free Library and even request books from their neighbors at facebook.com/littlefreelibrarypowell.