By: Mike Rhodes—
Early Saturday morning, August 15th, there was something “a buzz” in a Johnson Woods neighborhood near Storer Elementary School.
Not that there was anything unusual about that.
Craig Priebe, an accomplished carpenter, could often be heard working on a new carpentry project outside his home. By the end of the day, his newest project was finished and residents in the neighborhood eagerly stopped by to take a peek at Craig’s new handiwork.
Craig had built and installed a Little Free Library at the end of his family’s driveway, complete with bench seating, concrete pavers and companion statue of a bulldog puppy.
“We were inspired to do this after a recent trip to Minneapolis,” Craig said. “We saw several of these in a row across from a coffee house. We thought, Wow! We can do that! My wife, Anna wanted to do it. She is a great literary aficionado. She reads lots of books. I have lots of power tools, so I thought this would be a fun build—to make something like this. We got some ideas and it kind of grew into an installation I thought would be fun for the neighborhood— to enjoy sharing books with each other. “
Craig teaches voice in the music program at Ball State University and sings opera. His wife, Anna, runs the Writing Proficiency Program at Ball state.
“We hadn’t seen a Little Free Library around this part of town, although we have since found out, there are a few around Muncie,” Craig said.
“We thought this would be a great addition to our neighborhood, especially since we are so close to Storer Elementary.”
Craig and Anna started off the book selections with some adult selections and a number of children’s books. They are hoping people will donate a book—drop something off—take something—leave something.
“We hope this encourages children in the neighborhood to stop by, pick out a book, and sit on the bench beside the Little Free Library and read,” Craig said.
“This neighborhood is just beginning to organize again and one of our goals is for people to “know your neighbor” and just get out-and-about more,” said Adrienne Bliss, a Johnson Woods resident.
“I see this as a great way to encourage neighborliness—to get people to stop and talk. We’ve had a wonderful influx of young kids in the past few years in this neighborhood and Craig’s project is a great encouragement for them to read. I just think it is a wonderful neighborhood outreach idea.”
Little Free Libraries are a nationwide phenomenon and got their start in 2009. Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, built a model of a one-room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a former school teacher who loved reading. He filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard. His neighbors and friends loved it. He built several more and gave them away. Each one had a sign that said FREE BOOKS. Rick Brooks, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, saw Bol’s do-it-yourself project while they were discussing potential social enterprises. Together, the two saw opportunities to achieve a wide variety of goals for the common good. Each brought different skills to the effort, Bol as a creative craftsman experienced with innovative enterprise models and Brooks as a youth and community development educator with a background in social marketing.
There are over 30,001 Little Free Library book exchanges around the world.
The Priebes just hope people stop by and enjoy their Little Free Library.
“We will see what people want to do with it. It’s really up to the community. I love the whole aesthetic of it. We hope people take advantage of the bench and sit and browse through the books. We will keep an eye on what’s in there and make sure it’s appropriate. It’s already drawn quite a bit of interest in the first day,” Craig said.
For more information on little free libraries, visit http://littlefreelibrary.org