When Emily Brown and her roommates realized that renovations to Canton’s historic public library would take a while, the book lovers decided to open a small library of their own
Their “Little Free Library,” essentially a community book exchange, opened on Nov. 16 in the yard of Messiah Lutheran Church, at O’Donnell St. and Decker Ave.
Brown, her roommates Sarah Papania and Christa Huber, and friend Greg Strouse, were familiar with small book exchanges in Charles Village and around the U.S.–Papania saw her first Little Free Library in an Instagram photo–and decided that the concept suited Canton well.
The idea is simple: neighbors and passersby can visit the exchange and either take books or donate books, without the expectation of returning them.
An organization called Little Free Libraries provides some guidance on setting up a book exchange, registers the libraries, and puts them on a map on their website, but Little Free Library founders like Brown do the rest.
Brown knew that Pratt’s Southeast Anchor Library is less than a mile away from most of Canton but believed that some Cantonites, especially those who would like to walk to the library with kids, would welcome a book swap within walking distance.
“We have a lot of young families here. Books are things that families can share together,” she says.
Strouse built the roommates the sturdy, all-weather, house-shaped library box out of recycled materials, and Rev. Lee Hudson of Messiah Lutheran Church agreed to make space for the colorful library on church property.
“We thought it would be nice to have it near the Canton Library. It is in the garden of Messiah Hall, on the O’Donnell St. side,” says Hudson, adding that he welcomes a literary alternative to Canton’s sports bar scene, and is pleased that the project was initiated by younger members of the community.
The Little Free Library is publicly accessible, 24-7.
“We like its location. It has a lot of foot traffic but is somewhat protected,” says Brown.
It holds approximately 40 standard-sized books on two shelves.
“Some are from our personal collections. Others came from family, friends, and donations,” Brown says.
Canton’s Little Free Library recently housed copies of “Frankenstein,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “Bel Canto,” “Good Night Moon,” and “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” The classics and literary novels are balanced with a healthy dose of self-help, thrillers, and mysteries, and the library’s contents will change regularly, according to what people donate.
Papania says that filling Canton’s book void was important to them, but sharing books and book conversation among the community was a motivating factor as well.
“You can’t beat having a book in your hands, but this way you can read a book and share it with someone else. I put a copy of “A Passage to India” in there. I loved that book. I wrote my thesis on it. I want someone to find it and enjoy it,” she says. “Canton is a pretty engaged community. I know that residents will get involved and make the Little Free Library their own.”
You can correspond with the founders of the Little Free Library at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Danielle Sweeney