We see them everywhere. Little Free Libraries that look like miniature barns, chalets, birdhouses, British telephone booths and other fancifully decorated structures.
Inside are all kinds of books -- from romances to car repair -- that people can take without asking permission, checking out or purchasing. They are expected to replace the book with one of their own.
"Our position is that we are a global asset," said Todd Bol, creator of the organization whose motto is, "Take a book, return a book.
Todd Bol, founder of the nonprofit Little Fee Libraries, photographed in Hudson, Wis., on Wednesday, March 11, 2015. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)
Todd Bol, founder of the nonprofit Little Fee Libraries, photographed in Hudson, Wis., on Wednesday, March 11, 2015. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)
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Bol, 59, is an amiable, talkative guy seated at a big table made of century-old barn wood in the Little Free Library office and workshops near Hudson, Wis., where his 14-person staff works in a one-story building that smells of freshly cut wood. Behind him is a wall of 200 tiles showing Little Libraries of Distinction from all over the world.
For Bol, who calls himself a social entrepreneur, Little Free Libraries is about more than exchanging books. He wants nothing less than to change society.
"We're bringing neighborhoods together through books, literacy and conversation, talking about common goals," he said. "The (political) right likes us and the left likes us. How do you say 'no' to reading? As a populace, we are upset we are getting pushed apart when we want to come together.
That's what Little Free Libraries do."
Bol built what would become the first Little Library in 2009, and the organization officially was established as a Wisconsin nonprofit corporation in May 2012.
Now there are 25,000 registered Little Free Libraries in 50 states and 70 countries. That's why Little Free Library is hosting its first fundraiser Sunday, celebrating its five-year anniversary and launching the Big Little Campaign to raise money to double the program's impact and register 50,000 little libraries.