Little Free Library builds community and literacy in Bloomington


Matt Johnson


The Little Free Library network with locations all over the world has found a new home at St. Vincent de Paul food pantry in Bloomington.

The Little Free Library originated in Wisconsin at a local garage sale by one of the creators, Todd Bol, and the idea took off from there. It is a book exchange where members of a community can come to take or leave books in a 2 feet long by 2 feet wide box which sits atop of a pole.

The mission of the Little Free Library is to promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide.

“People really want to network face to face,” Bol said. “Little Free Library is Facebook with a face. It extends what I believe is a primal need for us to be connected to a community and its making it comfortable for people to talk with their neighbors.”

Bol came to Bloomington on his tour of the Midwest after seeing a YouTube video celebrating the first anniversary of the Little Free Library at the Clare House food pantry.  After watching the video, he offered to donate two Little Free Libraries to Bloomington.

The YouTube video was created by anthropology and nutrition major Emily Blankenberger.

“To me, a huge promoter of the Little Free Library is literacy,” Blankenberger said. “It’s really what Todd wants to do with it is bring this whole concept of literacy to life. The video I did was very much focused around Clare House and the importance of literacy.”

Little Free Libraries have an incredible impact on local communities. They encourage face to face interaction and stronger, healthier neighborhoods full of people who look out for each other.

“They provide a way to connect the old-fashioned way in a digital age,” Megan Hanson, library development specialist with Little Free library, said.

If a person wishes to join the Little Free Library network, registration can be found at  The libraries come in all shapes and designs.

Libraries can be purchased online or they can be built by customers. Blueprints are provided for customers who prefer to build their own libraries, which make up 77 percent of Little Free Library’s network, Bol said.

Some of the Little Free Libraries are even designed to a certain theme.

“There was a woman who was at the dedication and she had a cooking one,” Blankenberger said. “She would put cook books in and the next day she would come back and there would be muffins.”

Little Free Library has over 9,000 registered Little Free Library networks around the world and it is continually growing. Bloomington-Normal will have 12 Little Free Libraries after this donation.

The second donation’s location has yet to be determined.

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