GILBERT — A neighborhood in rural Gilbert is finding themselves brought closer together through their newest neighbor -- Little Free Library.
Located in the 6000 block of Stecker Road in rural Gilbert, where Stecker Road is met by Pincherry Road and Red Pine Drive, the two book boxes are located in a convenient pull off to the side.
“A Little Free Library is a ‘take a book, return a book’ free book exchange. They come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common version is a small wooden box of books,” states the official website for Little Free Libraries. “Anyone may take a book or bring a book to share. Little Free Library book exchanges have a unique, personal touch. There is an understanding that real people are sharing their favorite books with their community; Little Libraries have been called ‘mini-town squares.’”
The idea of installing a Little Free Library in the rural Gilbert neighborhood started after Duane Krueth found a construction plan in a woodworking magazine.
“Joey said, ‘I want one of these,’” he recalled his wife, Joanne Krueth, saying.
The Krueths were enjoying their afternoon with neighbor Virginia Park in front of the libraries this Tuesday. From one direction came the four-wheeler and the golf cart from the other. They had gathered for a chat and to check on their libraries- reminiscing on their quick success.
“We started gabbing,” said Joanne Krueth telling how this started, “and I said this is a busy corner and I’ve always said how nice Virginia’s flowers are,” she motioned toward the potted flowers. “It would be a great place for neighbors to meet.”
“I heard from someone that they were looking for a spot,” said Park adding her part of the story, “and I said I had the perfect place for people to pull off the road and my son keeps it plowed during the winter!”
Constructed by Krueth and neighbor Russel Blair, the first Little Free Library was installed in the Spring of 2018. It was originally intended for a relative in southern Minnesota but after seeing the size, it was decided the Northwoods was a better home.
After a successful first year, the team then installed a second Little Free Library, at the same spot, specifically for children and teens.
“We decided we wanted it shorter so they could reach it,” explained Park. She told how this spring she traveled to area book sales collecting material for both boxes.
Although there are not as many children in the neighborhood as there once were, this summer the kids box has seen frequent use by visiting grandchildren.
“It is perfect as grandparents don’t have to clutter their houses up with kids books!” said Park.
A clipboard sits inside one of the boxes and Krueth pulled it out to see if author requests or comments had been added. Scrawled in big, uncertain letters were children’s names.
“Look,” said Duane Krueth handing over the clipboard, “we are getting thank yous!”
A vehicle stopped at the intersection and they all waved at the children in the backseat.
Although not yet enrolled on the official website, this Gilbert neighborhood decided to enhance their neighborhood with two boxes of books. This has resulted in a real mini-town square.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to have a bench over here?” asked Joanne Krueth motioning toward the flowers.
Not only has community arisen around the boxes, but they all agree that they’ve found some good reading material.
For now, the group plans to maintain the libraries and perhaps continue to enhance the space.
“We hope these will be here long after we’re gone,” said Joanne Krueth.
“They will last at least five to ten years,” said Duane Krueth. The material used to construct the boxes was top quality and there has been minimal weathering this past year.
“I figure that I’ll be here about another five years,” added Park who owns the land where the two Little Free Libraries sit. “I’ll ask the next owners to continue to care for them.”
The Little Free Library movement began in 2009 when Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, built a model of a one room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother. The schoolhouse was put on a past in his front yard and filled with books.
This caught the eye of UW-Madison’s Rick Brooks and the two set to work for the common good of enhancing book access.
In 2011 there were 400 Little Free Libraries but by 2012, the number skyrocketed to 4,000 and the organization became a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Currently, there are over 90,000 registered Little Free Library book-sharing boxes in 91 countries throughout the world.
In October of 2018, at the age of 62, Bol died from complications of pancreatic cancer. Stewards of have placed silver or white ribbons on their Little Free Libraries as a way to honor Bol.
Park pointed to the bow atop their first box, “That is there to remember the guy who first thought of this great idea.”
To learn more about Little Free Library, visit the organization’s website at www.littlefreelibrary.org.