All is going well for the first Little Free Library of London, which opened its doors on the fence of the Smythe family’s home in Hackney, in November 2013.
This little painted house atop a fence contains adjustable shelves, where the community can share, exchange and even take books and ideas for free.
Appearing at first like a little red and black birdhouse perched on a column of bricks outside their door on the junction of Powerscroft and Rushmore road, and it contains adjustable shelves, where the community can share, exchange and even take books and ideas for free.
The idea came to Gilbert Smythe, father of two, while he was surfing the internet, and he spent all summer in 2013 physically building the library from recycled materials. “I just loved the idea and thought it would be a wonderful thing to try and make one myself.”
The Little Free Library began in 2009 in Wisconsin by Todd Bol, who built many little free libraries, which were widely successful in the community. Working with Rick Brooks, the two men set out to start the Little Free Library organization, with a goal to “promote literacy and love of reading” and have 2,510 Little Free Libraries. As of January 2014, there have been 15,000 registered Little Free Libraries all over the world.
When they first opened, the family “had to fill it up three times, because all the books were being taken and then it would just be empty.” But after a few weeks, says Smythe, “it’s been running itself. It just works.”
Hand-made with recycled items, the idea behind the see-through door is for people to look through and see the little library.
“I had to find all the materials and work out how to put it together, design it.” Although Smythe found it a challenging job, he persisted for three months. “It was a wonderful experience just making the thing itself.”
They were worried at first about the safety of the library, and “it became a little bit like a social experiment,” testing the community. Although it’s been slightly tampered with twice early on, Smythe feels that the community has embraced the concept.
The library contains books on topics from cooking, to politics, to children’s books, and even books in other languages, constantly changing genres over time.
The purpose behind it is about the promotion of literature: “promoting books for children and everybody in the community to consider reading a book rather than an iPad. I have lots of books on my iPad, but the representation of the real book is actually quite special.”
Beyond just books, the family decided to put in quote-of-the-days, word-of-the-days, and some funny poem-of-the-days to continue promoting literature. Sometimes, they even put in CDs, DVDs, and little treats for their community.
“If somebody goes past and spends two minutes reading this [poem], they walk away with a completely different emotional context than when they arrived. That’s the beauty of this little library; it does have a little bit of magic about it.”
“It makes people talk, it makes people value words, and it has been a fantastic journey,” he smiled.
Exchange your books or have a chat with the Smythes at this Little Free Library, 97 Powerscroft Road, London, E5 0PT