Little Libraries

at 10:43 PM
Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

The first little library popped up in my neighborhood about a year ago. It looked like a deluxe birdhouse topped with wooden bunny ears. "How adorable!" I thought. "What a cute vessel for book exchange."

Recently a second book-filled birdhouse appeared just up the street from me, this one crowned by an open-mouthed blue bird.  

Intrigued, I did some research into the non-profit organization that promotes these little libraries. Their mission, as stated on their website, is to promote literacy and a love of reading, and to build a greater sense of community through books. 

A worthy cause, no doubt. Who doesn't want to promote literacy and build community?

When I clicked on the World Location Map, I was impressed to see that these little birdhouses are popping up all across North America, with a smattering in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Upon closer inspection, however, I noticed that the libraries are located almost entirely in predominately middle-class or affluent neighborhoods; places where literacy is already promoted in high-performing schools and where most of the population can afford to buy their own books. 


And there's a catch: while the organization provides tips and tricks for setting up and maintaining your library - and sells a number of do-it-yourself kits - it is up to the individual to invest the time and money into the effort. Most low-income people can't afford to buy books, let alone cough up $150 for the basic birdhouse kit.

The net effect? Free books for everyone, except those who really need them.

As much as I adore these little birdhouses, if the goal is truly to promote literacy, we will all benefit if those of us who can afford to buy books do so at our neighborhood bookstores, and then after reading them, donate them to local libraries or charitable organizations that directly support literacy programs. 

With a Perspective, I'm Lisa Thomson.

Lisa Thomson is a marketer and writer. She lives in Oakland