Ridgewood Park Opens A Little Free Library

Electronic readers and tablets may be the wave of the future for many book readers. But an old concept -- the free lending library of printed books -- is finding new life in neighborhoods wanting to build a sense of community.
 
The concept has been popularized by Wisconsin nonprofit, Little Free Library, since 2009. The libraries pop up in yards, along bicycle trails and in parks in the guise of small wood boxes perched on thick posts and stuffed with paper books. The idea is to take a book to read and leave a book for someone else to read.
 
On April 12 Ridgewood Park residents will celebrate their Little Free Library, located in a linear park in the 2300 block of Glenwood Drive, off Columbus Drive. 
 
A day of celebration kicks off at 11:30 a.m. with refreshments and live music. Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner is a guest speaker for the unveiling. The free library is funded with a mini-grant from the county's neighborhood relations office.
 
"I've wanted one for ages for the neighborhood," says Stacey Warder, president of the Ridgewood Park Crime Prevention and Civic Association. "It's not only literacy building, it's a unique piece of art. It's community building."
 
Ridgewood's Little Free Library is joining nearly 15,000 other libraries that have sprouted across the world. Wisconsin craftsman, Todd Bol, started the literacy movement when he built a tiny replica of a one-room school house and set it out on his lawn. He placed a sign saying "free books" and invited neighbors to share and swap books. Bol was honoring his mother, a former school teacher with a passion for reading.
 
The Ridgewood library resembles a little house. Warder added a coat of primer and artist Angie Cannata, of Lodestar Studio, constructed a glass mosaic with trees and a tin roof. Cannata also crafted a glass mosaic with the neighborhood's logo and Tampa's skyline in the background, which was installed on a storm drain cover. The neighborhood of bungalows is bounded by Columbus Avenue, North Boulevard and the Hillsborough River.
 
Shellie Posey will serve as library steward, checking to make sure the box is supplied with a mix of title selections. Initially, about 30 or so donated books will fill the box. 
 
Warder says a second library box has been ordered for children's books. It will be placed next to the first Little Free Library, and also added to the world map.
 
As an official Little Free Library, the site will be added to the Little Free Library's world map. "It's quite impressive," Warder says. "They are all over the world."
 
Little Free Library encourages the spread of these free libraries in a variety of ways. They sell the ready-made libraries but they are just as happy to see other nonprofits, individuals or organizations adopt the concept and build their own.
 
Mitzi Gordon, founder of Bluebird Books Bus, is a free library enthusiast whose nonprofit has sponsored four free libraries, two in St. Petersburg and two in Tampa. The most recent was set up in Seminole Heights.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Stacey Warder, Ridgewood Park Crime Prevention and Civic Association

Read more articles by Kathy Steele.

Kathy Steele is a feature writer and editor at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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