RIP Todd Bol, Founder of the Little Free Library Movement: He Leaves Behind 75,000 Small Libraries That Promote Reading Worldwide

“The Lit­tle Free Library: Bil­lions and bil­lions read.”

In the 2013 Ted‑X talk above, Todd Bol, founder of the Lit­tle Free Library move­ment, expressed the desire that one day, he might be able to boast that his labor of love had sur­passed McDon­alds with regard to the num­ber of cus­tomers’ served.

It’s clos­ing in…

Bol, who passed away ear­li­er this month, was inspired by Andrew Carnegie’s mis­sion of repay­ing his own good for­tune by estab­lish­ing 2,509 free pub­lic libraries.

The Lit­tle Free Libraries are vast­ly more numer­ous if less impos­ing than Carnegie’s state­ly edi­fices.

Some, like the pro­to­type Bol craft­ed with lum­ber sal­vaged from a garage door in his late mother’s hon­or, resem­ble doll hous­es.

One in Detroit is a dead ringer for Doc­tor Who’s TARDIS.

There’s a bright yel­low one embla­zoned with char­ac­ters from The Simp­sons, auto­graphed by series cre­ator Matt Groen­ing.

Oth­ers are housed in repur­posed suit­cas­es, stor­age cab­i­nets, or news­pa­per hon­or box­es.

While the non-prof­it Lit­tle Free Library store sells sev­er­al stur­dy, weath­er­proof mod­els and its web­site hosts a healthy col­lec­tion of blue­prints and tips for DIY­ers, Bol was nev­er doc­tri­naire about the aes­thet­ics, pre­fer­ring to leave that up to each vol­un­teer stew­ard.

He seemed proud­est of the libraries’ com­mu­ni­ty build­ing effect (though he was also pret­ty chuffed when Read­er’s Digest ranked the project above Bruce Spring­steen in its 2013 fea­ture ”50 Sur­pris­ing Rea­sons We Love Amer­i­ca.” )

While not entire­ly devoid of naysay­ers, the good­will sur­round­ing the Lit­tle Free Library move­ment can­not be under­es­ti­mat­ed.

A stew­ard who post­ed news of his dog’s death on the side of his library received sym­pa­thy cards from neigh­bors both known and unknown to him.

A stew­ard who spe­cial­izes in giv­ing away cook­books, and invites patrons to snip herbs from an adja­cent gar­den, fre­quent­ly wakes to find home­made quiche and oth­er good­ies on the doorstep.

And when an arson­ist torched a Lit­tle Free Library in Indi­anapo­lis, the com­mu­ni­ty ral­lied, vow­ing to get enough dona­tions to replace it with 100 more.

To date, stew­ards have reg­is­tered over 75,000, in 85 coun­tries, in ser­vice of Bol’s “Take a book, Leave a book” phi­los­o­phy.

Find a Lit­tle Free Library near you, learn how to become a stew­ard, or make a dona­tion on the project’s web­site.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The New York Pub­lic Library Lets Patrons Check Out Ties, Brief­cas­es & Hand­bags for Job Inter­views

The Rise and Fall of the Great Library of Alexan­dria: An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion

Down­load 150 Free Col­or­ing Books from Great Libraries, Muse­ums & Cul­tur­al Insti­tu­tions: The British Library, Smith­son­ian, Carnegie Hall & More

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Mon­day, Novem­ber 12 for anoth­er month­ly install­ment of her book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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  • Bill W. says:

    Love these lit­tle libraries, the kids in our neigh­bor­hood eager­ly patron­ize these box­es, and it’s neat see­ing them fre­quent­ly check­ing them for new books added! Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the coun­ty is try­ing to ban them (like they did food-trucks here); it seems the local pub­lic libraries…Big Government…doesn’t like the lib­er­tar­i­an-style com­pe­ti­tion.

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