By JEN CARDINES
The Little Free Library (LFL) is a growing phenomenon that has reached destinations worldwide, the newest being right here in Southington.
The 501 (c)(3) non-profit started as a free book box outside of a Wisconsin man’s home and quickly spread throughout the country and across the globe. The concept is simple: take a book, leave a book, and all at no cost.
As of Jan. 1, 2017, Southington has an LFL location on Mount Vernon Road, on the Lincoln College of New England property. Town resident Mary Sargent organized the landmark and is this LFL’s steward. As a steward, she is responsible for maintaining the books and making sure they are appropriate.
The steward is the key local contact for users, donors, and the LFL movement and support system. She plans to plant flowers in the spring and is also working on getting a bench donated. Sargent has been a preschool teacher for over 30 years and holds a passion for literature.
“I approached [Lincoln College] in order to get permission to place a Little Free Library on their property,” she said. “Not only did they agree, but they built it and installed it for our neighborhood.”
Lincoln’s head of security and facility operations Dave Alling got the idea approved, and Joe Alfano built the library, making it possible. This particular library now has a charter number (49204) and will soon be placed on the LFL’s World Map. Alling said that they painted the structure blue because that is Lincoln’s school color.
The library is now open, and all are welcome to take a book and/or leave a book. Once a person takes a book, they can keep it if they’d like, or return it. The book stop works on the honor system, but will offer a guest sign in book for visitors to utilize.
Sargent said that the sign-in can be used for suggestions about what people would like to see donated.
“I’m hoping to continue working with the college to set up a grand opening event,” said Sargent.
She chose Lincoln’s property because it is a safe location to park the car and check out the books. Sargent even installed solar lights so that people can clearly see the books, especially at night.
“The ultimate goal is to get the college kids involved,” Alling said. With the winter break coming to an end, he is hopeful they will utilize the book exchange while on campus. “Whatever we can do to make the community better, that’s what we’re here to do.”
As of November 2016, there are over 50,000 registered Little Free Library book exchanges in all 50 states and over 70 countries around the world. Sargent hopes that the tradition can continue to grow in Southington.
“It’s like a little secret,” she said about the free libraries. “When you find one, it’s like the coolest thing in the world.”