Little Free Libraries

New literacy trend taking place around globe is Oakhurst hit

Tiffany TuellApril 3, 2013 

Little Free Libraries are popping up all over the country and even the world and Oakhurst is no exception thanks to book lover Sara Robison and her husband Tom. The little libraries are so small they could almost be mistaken for a large birdhouse.

Sara first got the idea for a little library Fall 2011 when she received an envelope in the mail from a friend back in Minnesota. Enclosed in the envelope was an article about Little Free Libraries that the friend had read. Stuck on the article was a post-it-note that read, "This had you written all over it."

"We, of course, loved the idea," Sara said. "It's a wonderful concept and a lovely idea."

However, Tom was recovering from a stroke at the time and couldn't build the little wooden library, so Sara contacted Yosemite High School woodshop instructor Dave Dooman. Dooman agreed to have his class build the little structure for Sara and soon Sara had a the finished product and all she paid was a batch of cookies.

Once Sara and Tom had the little library placed near their driveway in the Hillview community in Oakhurst, they covered it up so no one would know what it was until the grand opening in June. Sara said she had neighbors coming up to her saying everyone was "all a twitter" as to what was hiding under the tarp. Once the little library was finally open, Sara said the response was "amazing." To make the experience pleasant for walkers, Sara even puts fresh water out to drink and a hook so walkers can tie their dog to it while looking at books.

"It's fun to have it here and it has had an amazing impact on our community," Sara said. "I think they are a conversation starter and ... it builds more community. It's fun to see neighbors from here and Goldside carrying a book to the library or walking away with one."

Rhonda Piume, who lives in the Hillview area, said the neighbors appreciate the proximity of it.

"It's convenient for some of the neighbors that have trouble getting transportation and gives them the opportunity to read different kinds of books," Piume said. We enjoy having it and thank Sara for putting it together for us."

The little library is filled with all types of books -- from fiction and biographies to children's books and cookbooks. The library holds 20-30 books and content is regularly changing as people take books and add books.

The purpose of little libraries, according to the Little Free Library website, is to promote literacy and the love of reading, to build a sense of community, and provide countless libraries.

Promoting literacy is right up Sara's alley because books have always been part of her life from the moment she learned how to read. A teacher in the Mountain Area for 17 years who later retired from the Madera County Office of Education, Sara now spends her free time volunteering at the Oakhurst Branch Library and with Friends of the Oakhurst Branch Library where she is a board member.

"Our house is overloaded with books," Sara said. "When I was a child, books were the avenue of going to other places. They're a way of life."

Sara is happy to pass on her love of books to those around her.

"At all times of the day and evening I can look out the window and see someone at the library," Sara said. "The whole idea is to encourage people to read and if in the middle of the night they can't sleep, they can just walk down the road. I would love to see more little free libraries in the mountains."

According to their website, there are between 5,000 and 6,000 Little Free Libraries in 36 countries around the world. LFL has even partnered with Books for Africa to send more than 2,000 Little Free Libraries and thousands of books to Africa over the next few years.

More information, including an interactive map to locate Little Free Libraries, can be found at www.littlefreelibrary.org

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