The concept of the Little Free Library has blossomed into a worldwide movement since it started 10 years ago – a legacy of the late Todd Bol, who built the first “library on a stick” with wood from his old garage door in Hudson, Wisconsin.

The free book exchange, working on a “take one, leave one” concept, quickly spread through communities in the US and internationally. There are now more than 80,000 registered Little Free Libraries spread across more than 90 countries, according to the non-profit’s most recent figures.

While the free book exchange is not new in itself, this concept centres on putting them in public spaces (including community centres, schools, and front lawns) in wooden boxes, which are for the most part accessible 24/7. Custodians monitor them, but the community in general is trusted to take care of them – borrowing, returning and donating books, and safeguarding the boxes.

The new locations opened recently by K1 Britannia Foundation have boosted the island’s tally to seven. The local little libraries aren’t (yet) registered with the Little Free Library organisation.

K1 Britannia has installed four in total, and another three were installed by Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset, who started the initiative locally in late 2018, inspired by fellow Rotarian, the late Bol.

The little libraries have been lauded as a great way to promote literacy and the love of reading, improve access to books for all, and build communities.

They cater to both children and adults. Check them out for new reads; you never know what you’ll find. Just return them when you’re done and make sure to give back. Have books that you love, but will not likely read again? Don’t keep them to yourself; think of who else can enjoy them.

Both local organisations pointed out to The Weekender that everyone – both children and adults – is encouraged to make use of them, and that books in different languages are welcome.

The island’s little libraries can be found at the following locations: University of St. Martin (Philipsburg), Raoul Illidge Sports Complex (Cay Hill), The Marigot Waterfront, Emilio Wilson Park (L.B. Scott road), John Larmonie Center (Philipsburg), Rupert Maynard Community Centre (St. Peters), and near the Belvedere Community Centre.

Speaking of accessibility to books, don’t forget that Philipsburg Jubilee Library is now located at the Adolphus Richardson Building (W.J.A. Nisbeth Road #3, Philipsburg). While its inventory was seriously downsized after the hurricanes, there are still lots of books to explore, and its online catalogue now includes 1,000 books. A library card costs just NAf. 25 (or just under $14) for the year.

Vision and Reflection

“I really believe in a Little Free Library on every block and a book in every hand. I believe people can fix their neighbourhoods, fix their communities, develop systems of sharing, learn from each other, and see that they have a better place on this planet to live.” ~The late Todd Bol.

“Bol believed the now-ubiquitous little boxes of books – and the neighbours who cared for them – could change a block, a city, the world. So he brought them to front yards all over, often installing them himself,” according to the Minneapolis- based Star Tribune, who noted that he was “known for his wild optimism and keen business sense”.

Bol passed away last October at the age of 62, mere weeks after receiving a cancer diagnosis. Speaking to the Star Tribune very shortly before his death, he reflected on the project, which he had started in tribute to his late mother, who had been a teacher.

“If I may be so bold, I’m the most successful person I know,” he told the publication with a sideways smile, “because I stimulate 54 million books to be read and neighbours to talk to each other. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the very definition of success… If people get along and work together and share books, I’ll take that over Billionaire Bob’s money… I wouldn’t switch my existence for Jeff Bezos or any of it.”