For Vernon Winters, some spare time and an interest in doing something “little” for his neighborhood has become a big hobby.
Winters built and set up a Little Free Library in front of his Mountlake Terrace home about a year ago; now four of his neighborhood library creations are set up around the Puget Sound region, with more on the way.
Little Free Libraries are privately-owned neighborhood stations that hold small numbers of books intended for sharing among any and all who come by. There are hundreds of Little Free Libraries around North America, and they are now spreading worldwide.
For Winters and his family, it seemed like a nature fit to build and steward a Little Free Library. “My wife and daughters are voracious readers so we thought it would be great to give back to the community and do something of a free nature, and so this fell right into place,” Winters said. “We are amazed at how it has taken off.”
Winters said he sees the library being visited by small children, families and senior citizens on Little Free Library tours. He estimates about 10 childrens books plus a few adult titles are traded in and out of the library each week. He is especially pleased with the response from school-aged kids grabbing a book or two after school or on weekends. “It’s really self-rewarding to see that,” he said.
Winters is a licensed real estate broker, a profession that has had some struggles recently. So he is using the increased free time to care for his Little Free Library, and to build library structures for others with an interest in stewarding one.
He built a library and helped a neighbor on the 21600 block of 49th Place West set it up. Two other libraries built by Winters are up and operating also, a “little red schoolhouse” design in North Seattle and a “barn” design in Stanwood.
Another Winters-built library is built, sitting in his garage and ready for a purchaser. It’s an outhouse design, complete with front door, seat and toilet paper roll.
As for the library in front of their home, the Winters’ family worked together to build a Northwest Native American-themed design. “We went with the Haida longhouse design, because the long house is where the locals would storytell,” Winters said. “They didn’t have books but they did all the storytelling.”
All the Winters’ Little Free Libraries are built from recycled materials, not only to stay within the spirit of the entire concept of reusing and sharing books with others, but because of the small nature of the stations. The door is often a recycled cabinet door, with the rest of the library custom built to fit it, Winters said.
Winters already has a design in mind for his next library. “The next one I am going to build is a train depot,” he said. It takes a couple months for Winters to construct each library.
The Little Free Library movement has an official website where visitors can learn all about the trend and stewards can register their library. There is also a map showing registered libraries all around the world.
— Story and photo by Doug Petrowski