At first glance, the wooden boxes popping up in Barton County might be mistaken for a new version of Great Bend’s big, decorative “bird houses.” But these structures have something inside — books — all free for the taking.
Little Free Libraries (LFLs) can be found across the United States, including central Kansas. These homespun, often colorful structures are based on sharing, with people invited to “take a book, return a book.”
Gina Munz, 1604 Main St., has one of Great Bend’s first Little Free Libraries. It has stood in front of her home/office for over a year now. She registered it on the official LFL website, LittleFreeLibrary.org, where she is LFL Steward No. 5356. The website lists registered libraries, any comments or photos uploaded by the librarians, and their locations and GPS coordinates. The website also has LFL kits for sale, as well as free plans for those who want to build their own.
“My dad made the little library from plans on the website, and he registered it for me, too,” Munz said. He also started taking orders to build more little libraries. Hers he painted bright white.
“There’s a lot of people using it,” Munz said. “One woman told me, ‘This is like coming to the well.’”
The librarians say it’s OK if someone doesn’t have a book to leave every time they take one. They are also happy to take donations. Munz said sometimes someone will just leave a box of books on her porch.
“We really need children’s books,” she said. “They go fast.”
Artist Robert Joy turned his Little Free Library into a bright series of tiny murals, with paintings on every side. It can be found at 306 East Second St. in Ellinwood.
“Gina’s dad built it for me,” Joy said. “I also painted one for a Bed & Breakfast in Wilson.”
Sue Cooper’s husband Brett built the Little Free Library on the east side of their house at Forest and Stone in Great Bend. It can be found on Stone St., across from First United Methodist Church and within sight of the Great Bend Public Library. “It’s amazing that this location is so close to the library, and yet we always need more books,” she said.
Their daughter Sidney helped Sue decorate the library and keeps the shelves stocked. Munz provided the Coopers’ LFF with its first book, a copy of Cheryl Strayed’s first-person memoir, “Wild.”
Sue Cooper said she likes LFLs because they promote literacy. All kinds of reading materials find their way to their library, but they always need more children’s books.
Munz also likes the idea of promoting literacy.
“Books have saved me and guided me through the years, and this is a great way to share them,” she wrote on the LFL website. “This idea could help save the world.”