Little Free Library

A small gesture to encourage love of books
Sylvia Danforth's Little Free Library box at 2216 Main St. stands at the ready for people to pick up a book or drop one off. It's part of a growing national program to spread the love of reading. While the public library must close at times, the Little Free Library is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


For those voracious readers who dread the days the Miles City Public Library is closed, take heart: A new alternative does exist, albeit on a smaller scale.

Local reading enthusiast Sylvia Danforth found out about a program called Little Free Library on the Internet and decided to investigate it further. What she found was very encouraging, and it inspired her to get involved. Her Little Free Library is now prominently displayed in front of her house at 2216 Main St.

“I love to read, and when I found out about the Little Free Library program, I thought, ‘What a great idea,’” Danforth said. “It’s sort of that pay-it-forward mentality, and it also really encourages literacy. Our library is wonderful - I use it all the time - but there are times when people may want a book and the library’s not open.”

Operating on the premise of “take a book, return a book,” the Little Free Library began as a grass-roots movement in 2009 by Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisc. According to the program’s website, Bol built the first Little Free Library box as a tribute to his mother, a former school teacher and avid reader. He filled the box with books and put it on a post in his yard, encouraging his friends and neighbors to help themselves. The idea quickly caught on, to the point where there are now nearly 15,000 registered Little Free Libraries around the world. There is also a map on the website indicating where every unit is located.

“I saw the map on the website and knew there weren’t a lot of Little Free Libraries in Montana,” Danforth said. “And there weren’t any in eastern Montana, at least as indicated by the map. I’ve registered mine now on the map, which should show up in about 4-6 weeks. 

“There are several in Billings, which I went and checked out, and I just fell in love with the idea,” she continued. “I love the idea of people having access to books, and that you’re going to share books, and perhaps be challenged to read something they may not generally read.”

Little Free Library’s mission statement reads: “To promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide, as well as to build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.” The website is full of valuable information for anyone interested in becoming a steward of the program, as well as tips on how to build your own library. You can also buy a pre-made library from the website, the price of which includes the one-time charter fee.

“Some people build their own, but I decided to buy a pre-made one,” Danforth explained. “If I were doing it again, I might get a little bit bigger one, but I was surprised by how many books actually fit in it.”

Danforth’s library has only been up since last week, but she says feedback has been extremely encouraging.

“Everything I’ve heard from people has been really positive,” she said. “I don’t think everyone has figured out yet what it is; some people think it’s a mailbox. But people who have stopped to see it have been extremely positive.”

She went on to say it is her hope that other community members follow suit; she’d love to see Little Free Libraries in different locations in Miles City.

“I hope this encourages other people to do the same thing,” she said. “I really want to promote it and encourage conversation around the books. We all know we don’t always like the same thing, but it would be fun if people try something new they may never have thought of reading before. And it will be really fun to see what other people put in there. I’m really excited about it.”