A Maplewood First: Little Free Library Opens on Richmond Avenue

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The following was submitted by Amy McGlinn.

Maplewood has long been a reader-friendly town, with book lovers of all ages supporting the two branches of the Maplewood Memorial Library as well as our school libraries.

Now, thanks to the McGlinn girls — Maddy (11), Merry (9) and Jane (6) —local bookworms have a new library “branch” to call their own.

The McGlinn family, along with their neighbor, Carol Manning, have established the Little Free Library of Richmond Avenue, to share books and help build community in Maplewood.

Little Free Library, Ltd., began in 2009 as a program of the non-profit Wisconsin Partners for SustainAbility to promote literacy and a love of reading via free book exchanges worldwide.

When Amy McGlinn learned of the Little Free Library movement, she immediately thought of the perfect spot. “The tree in front of our house was a beautiful old maple, but its age and disease had made it a liability. The town had to take it down and we were left with a tall, ugly stump.”

McGlinn thought about carving a bench out of the stump or even getting a local sculptor to create a thing of beauty from the remains of the tree. “When I heard about the Little Free Library, I knew it was the perfect fit. It encourages literacy, enhances our community and allows the tree continue its vibrant life within our neighborhood.”

When McGlinn shared the idea with her daughters, they took on the project with joyful enthusiasm. “You could tell that the tree wanted to be more than a stump. Plus, it would be fun to have our neighbors find great books right on the street,” says Merry McGlinn.

The sisters saved their allowances for two months in order to purchase a charter from Littlefreelibrary.org. They bought old wine crates at a tag sale to use for the bookcases, and caulked and painted them to weather-proof their future library.

Neighbor Carol Manning worked with the girls to finish and mount the boxes, while neighbor, Kevin Lynch cut the plexiglass covers.

The McGlinn girls initially stocked the shelves with five kids’ books like Junie B. Jones and The Ultimate Book of Optical Illusions. Shortly after the first bookcase was installed, anonymous donors filled the shelves with additional books. “That’s the whole idea behind Little Free Libraries,” Manning says. “Neighbors and friends borrow books and ideally return them or contribute new ones.”

The Little Free Library of Richmond Avenue is the first in Maplewood. The structure is #23925 within the Little Free Library movement.

The McGlinn girls are the dutiful librarians and monitor its use carefully. “We have had at least 50 books go in and out of the library so far, and it’s only been three weeks,” says Maddy McGlinn excitedly. “Every day we make sure there are enough books in the kids, young adults and grown-ups sections. People love good books so we want to have really good things for them to read – especially good bedtime stories,” adds Jane McGlinn.

The librarians insist that the library that belongs not to them, but to the community, and they encourage visitors to participate by taking a book, dropping one off.

Patrons are invited to stop by the corner of Baldwin Ave and Richmond Ave Maplewood today to borrow or contribute a book.

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